21st New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

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

The Twenty-first regiment infantry N. Y. S. V., or "First Buffalo regiment," was organized at Elmira, May 13th, 1861, from companies recruited in Buffalo. Recruiting for the regiment began at a public meeting held in the old Court-house in Buffalo, on the evening of the 13th of April, at which time the names of one hundred and two persons were enrolled as volunteers for the term of three months. This enrollment took organised form in placing the Seventy-fourth regiment N. Y. S. M. in condition to take the field for three months' service. Four companies of the Seventy-fourth were accepted on the 1st of May, and left for Elmira on the 3d, viz ;

Company A Captain W. H. Drew May l.
Company H Captain Elisha L. Hayward May l.
Company I Captain Horace G. Thomas May l.
Company K Captain John M. Luyton April 23

The remaining companies of the regiment were nearly full and ready to move when the order came that no more militia would be accepted.

Company B was raised in Buffalo by Capt. Henry M. Gaylord
Company C was raised in Buffalo by Capt. Wm. F. Rogers
Company D was raised in Buffalo by Capt. Wm. C. Alberger
Company E was raised in Buffalo by Capt. James C. Strong
Company F was raised in Buffalo by Capt. Geo. De W. Clinton
Company G was raised in Buffalo by Capt. Edward L. Lee

Captain G. D.W. Clinton immediately proposed to his com¬mand that they should offer their services to Governor Morgan " for the term of their natural lives, or for the war," and this pro¬position was unanimously adopted by the members of the com¬pany (April 30). The company was immediately accepted for two years' service, and the remaining companies of the Seventy-fourth encouraged to a similar course. Rolls were immediately opened and six companies organized, as follows:
Company B, Captain Henry M. Gaylord, .

Company B by Capt. Henry M. Gaylord organised May 10
Company C by Capt. Wm. F. Rogers organised May 7
Company D by Capt. Wm. C. Alberger organised May 8
Company E by Capt. James C. Strong organised May 7
Company F by Capt. Geo. De W. Clinton organised May 7
Company G by Capt. Edward L. Lee organised May 6


These companies left for Elmira on the 11th. On the 13th the regiment Was accepted into the State service and numbered, and an election of field officers ordered (Special Orders 174). On the same day this united command elected William F. Rogers, colonel; Adrian R. Root, lieutenant-colonel; William H. Drew, major; C. W. Sternberg, adjutant; H. P. Clinton, quartermaster; Chas. H. Wilcox, surgeon ; J. A. Peters, assistant surgeon, and George M. Love, sergeant major. The election of Colonel Rogers, Lieute-nant-Colonel Root, and Major Drew was confirmed by the State Board on the 14th, and announced by Special Orders No. 186, and on the 15th (Special Orders No. 188) the regiment was directed to be mustered into the United States service. This order was com¬piled with on the 20th, and the regiment mustered for three months by Captain W. L. Elliott, U. S. A.

The uniforms originally ordered for the Seventy-fourth were turned over to the new regiment. It was armed (June 4th) with percussion muskets, model of 1840; subsequently exchanged (June 28th) for percussion muskets, model of 1842, and was supplied with common and wall tents. The total expenditure by the State, on account of the regiment up to the 15th of August, 1861, was $40,846.81, exclusive of subsistence and quarters.

The regiment left Elmira on the 18th of June for Washington, via Harrisburg and Baltimore. It arrived in Washington on the 19th, and took up quarters in the Union House and in a large unfinished building on the avenue, where it remained until the 21st, when it moved to Kalorama. On the 14th of July it moved into Virginia and was assigned to duty at Fort Runyon. Here it was occupied in guard and camp duties, and in drilling with the guns of the fort. Company E was detailed to Fort Jackson, at the Virginia end of the Long Bridge, and company K to the bastion overlooking the Alexandria road.

While in this, position the same difficulty that had occurred in other regiments, from the master for three months, was developed. On the 4th of August, Special Orders No. 324, was read on dress parade, requiring Colonel Rogers to reports with his command, on the 20th, to the Adjutant General of the United States for muster for the unexpired term of two years. On the morning of the 20th a few men refused to appear at roll call. At reveille, Colonel Rogers sent orders to have those men, who thought they had served long enough, stack their arms. Sixteen from company E, four from company H, and one from company A, complied with this order, and were marched to the guard-house. Meanwhile, company K had been detailed for fatigue duty, and, on its return, joined, with the exception of five, in the refusal to do duty. They were sent to the guard-house, and from thence the whole number of malcontents were started for the navy yard. While on the way all but twenty of company K returned to duty, leaving only forty-one for the subsequent sentence to the Dry Tortugas.*

[* These men were stopped at the Rip-Raps, and, after confinement to labor there for some months, were pardoned on condition of re-entering the service. They were assigned to the 2d New York, and expiated their offence by noble eonduct in the field. Only three are now known to be alive.—Mills' Chronicles of the 21st, page 85.]

On the 31st of' August the regiment was assigned to Wadsworth's brigade, McDowell's division, and, on the 1st of Septem¬ber, moved to the vicinity of Fort Cass, where it established Camp Buffalo. On the 9th, companies K, G, E, A and I were sent on picket to Ball's Cross Roads, and the regiment occupied in camp and picket duties—drills and parades. On the 28th it advanced to Upton's Hill, expecting to meet the enemy, but found the place deserted and the formidable "cannon" on its breastwork to consist of a few pump logs and some old stove-pipe on wheels, admirably arranged to deceive the eye. Here a new camp was established on the 30th and called Camp Rogers.

On the 4th of October the regiment commenced the erection of a new fort on Upton Hill, in the presence of Generals MeClellan and McDowell and Brigadier General Wadsworth. The work was completed on the 24th, and christened " Fort Buffalo." It went into winter quarters here on the 15th of December, and closed up the year wfth the following record:

Left Elmira with enlisted men 754
Gained by recruits 64
Lost by death four, and by discharges eighty 84
Strength, December 31st 734

On the 10th of Match, 1862, it moved in the "reconnoissance in force" towards Centreville; passed through Fairfax Court House and camped at night within about two miles of Centreville. The next day it was found that the enemy had left their entrenchments and left to our men some more of the guns of the Upton Hill pattern. Here General Wadsworth took leave of the brigade, having been made Military Governor of the District of Columbia. General M. R. Patrick was assigned to the command of the bri¬gade, which, under the order of March 13th, became the 1st brigade, 1st division (King's) 1st corps (McDowell's).* [See Thirty-fifth regiment] On the the 15th the regiment returned to Alexandria, and from that place to what, was appropriately called "Camp Misery," near Bailey's Gross Roads, where it was exposed for three weeks to Virginia mud and Virginia weather of the March and April type. On the 18th of April it started with McDowell's command towards Rich¬mond, encountering the enemy occasionally in light skirmishes. On the 19th of May it reached and crossed the Rappahannock and took up camp on "Hazel Run" in the rear of Fredericksburg. Here it remained until the 26th, when it broke camp and marched to and crossed the Massaponax and encamped. On the 29th it countermarched to Fredericksburg—the movement of the enemy not justifying General McDowell in a further advance under his order to hold " such a position as to cover the capital of the nation against a sudden dash of any large body of the rebel forces."

It is not necessary to follow the marching and countermarching of McDowell's corps at this time. The regiment left Fredericks¬burg on the 9th of August, with the division to which it was attached, under orders to join the corps at Culpepper, where the army under General Pope was concentrating. It marched at five in the morning by the plank or Wilderness road, reached Chancellorsville and halted for the night. On the 10th it crossed the Rapidan at Germania Ford and halted; moved on the 11th towards Cedar Mountain, and stacked arms at nine P. M. in a stubblefield to the right of the road—having marched forty miles in thirty-six hours, and endured terrible heat, short rests and great thirst.

Meanwhile the battle of Cedar Mountain had been fought, and ambulances bearing the wounded moved during the night along the road to Culpepper. On the morning of the 11th Jackson fell back to Cedar Mountain, and Pope had made his arrangements to meet him again on the 12th. On the night of the 11th, however, Jackson retreated across the Rapidan, and our tired forces were permitted to rest undisturbed, except by a grand review by Gen. Pope.

On the 14th the regiment was again on the march ; passed along the Orange Court House road to the right of Cedar Mountain; crossed Cedar Run and encamped, the army occupying both flanks of Cedar Mountain to await the approach of Jackson. Here it remained until the 18th, when Gen. Pope became satisfied that the enemy was preparing to advance in overwhelming numbers and he determined to withdraw behind the Rappahannock. In this movement the regiment joined on the 19th and continued, with only short rests, until midnight. The 20th was occupied in dis¬posing the troops regularly and to the best advantage to hold the stream, the regiment being posted at and above the railroad bridge. On the 21st the enemy forced a crossing at the ford first above the railroad bridge. The regiment was now ordered for¬ward and formed in line of battle fronting the apparent position of the enemy. This movement was barely accomplished, how¬ever, when it was discovered that the enemy were on the right of the position and threatening the flank. The regiment immediately fell back, and, while forming line for the second time, received orders to support Reynolds battery on the left, this position was reached by passing through an open field under fire, and here the regiment became exposed to the enemy's artillery and sharp¬shooters. The engagement continued until noon, when the enemy withdrew across the river. The regiment then returned to its old position on the right, to oppose an expected attempt of the enemy to cross a second time. Here, in the ravine in which it was stationed, it was exposed to a showed of projectiles. The order soon came to fall back as it was discovered that the enemy had planted a new battery commanding fully the ravine. The move¬ment of the regiment to the wood was made in a masterly manner, and the day closed without the loss of a man.

The fighting on the Rappahannock continued from the 21st to the 23d, when the railroad bridge was blown up by our forces. Meanwhile it was reported that the enemy had crossed at War¬renton Springs; and was rapidly moving on Warrenton, and the regiment moved with its division in the direction of the new dan¬ger. Warrenton was reached at dark (Aug. 24), and it was found that Fitzhugh Lee's cavalry had just left the place after having made a successful raid as far as Catlett's Station. The regiment camped near "Fisher's Forks," on the Sulphur Springs road, and remained on the 25th. On the 26th it moved to the Springs, where the enemy's pickets were encountered, and an artillery duel across the Rappahannock opened. The regiment lay all day between the contending artillery. On the 27th it was found that the enemy had begun another flank movement, and by nine o'clock the regiment was retracing its steps of the day before. The march was continued through Warrenton to Gainesville which was reached sometime after midnight. On the 28th it moved towards Groveton, and was in the reserve in the engagement at that place in the eveniug. On the 29th and 30th it took part in the battle of Bull Run (second), and formed the right of the line of battle at Chantilly, September, 1st. It fell back with the army and reached Upton's Hill on the night of the 2d.

The army was here partially reorganized, Gen. Hooker taking command of the 1st corps. With this corps the regiment left Upton's Hill on the 7th of September, for Frederick via Brooks¬ville, Cooksville and Ridgeville. On the 14th it took part in the battle of South Mountain, where it was engaged in the severe contest for the possession of the crest on the left of the ravine. It was deployed as skirmishers in this action and went straight up the slope, drawing the fire of the enemy and revealing his position. On the 16th and 17th, at Antietam, it was on the right under Gen. Hooker, and fought most valiantly for several hours.

From Antietam the regiment moved with its corps; crossed the Potomac October 30th at Berlin ; moved to Purcellville and Hamilton on the 1st of November; from thence via Philomont, Union, Bloomfield, &c, to Warrenton, and from thence to the Rappahannock, which was reached on the 10th of December. On the 12th, as a part of Reynolds' corps of Franklin's grand division, it crossed the river and took part in the battle of Fredericksburg; recrossed on the 15th, and on the 20th camped near Cottage Grove, the brigade resting, on the river forming the extreme left flank of the army.

The gains and losses of the regiment during the year were as follows:

Strength, January 1st 734
Gained by recruits 76
Killed and died of wounds 64
Wounded and absent 173
Discharged, sick, &c 278
Present for duty 295


On the 9th of January, 1863, the regiment was transferred to the command of Gen. M. R. Patrick for duty as provost guard of the army, in which capacity it was associated with the Twenty-third, Thirty-fifth and Eightieth New York (known as Patrick's Provost Brigade), in which it remained until sent home for muster out.

The regiment left Washington on the 9th, arrived at Elmira on the 10th and Buffalo on the 11th of May. A reorganization of the regiment was authorized May 21st (Special Orders 242), under Lieut. Col. Chester W. Sternberg, but the authorization was revoked September 30th, 1863.