31st New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch
From The 3rd Annual Report Of The Bureau Of Military Statistics
THIRTY-FIRST REGIMENT INFANTRY, N. Y. S. V. The Thirty-first regiment Infantry, N. Y. S. V., was organized at Palace Garden, in the city of New York, on the 21st of May, 1861, and was composed in part of volunteers recruited for the " Montezuma Regiment," under Wm. H. Browne, and in part of volunteers for a regiment under Calvin E. Pratt. It also received two companies by transfer from the Thirty-sixth regiment. The companies of which it was composed were accepted and mustered as follows :
|Co.||By whom recruited||Order No.||Date of acceptance||Date of U. S. muster|
|A||Capt. John J. S. Hassler||408||May 3, 1861||May 14, 1861|
|B||Capt. Leopold C. Newman||409||May 3, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|C||Capt. Alexis Raszewski||410||May 3, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|D||Capt. Michael O. McGarry||552||May 8, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|E||Capt. Edmund Johnson||619||May 19, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|F||Capt. Henry Witthack||587||May 9, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|G||Capt. August Heiss||547||May 7, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|H||Capt. David Lamb||666||May 21, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|I||Capt. John A. Rue||672||May 24, 1861||May 27, 1861|
|K||Capt. John H. Watts||673||May 24, 1861||June 13, 1861|
At a meeting of the State Military Board, held May 21st, it was
" Resolved, That the companies commanded by Captains J. J. S. Hassler, Leopold C. Newman, Alexis Raszewski, M. O. McGarry, August Heiss, Henry Witthack, Edmund Johnson, Israel G. Atwood, Alexis M. Smith and David Lamb, formed into a regiment by order of Brigadier-General Yates, be numbered Thirty-one, and that the services of Calvin E. Pratt, as Colonel; Wm. H, Browne, as lieutenant-colonel ; and Addison Dougherty as Major, be accepted, and their election confirmed."
The companies commanded by Captains Atwood and Smith were detached, and the companies commanded by Captains Rue and Watts were attached, (Special Orders 237). These transfers were to and from the Thirty-sixth regiment. On the 3rd of June the regiment went into camp on Riker's Island; on the 14th, its field and staff officers were mustered by Captain S. B. Hayman, and on the, 24th, it left for Washington, fully armed and equipped.
To assist in recruiting the regiment, the Union Defense Committee expended $5,458.90. The expenditure by the State, on account of the regiment, was $39,592.40, exclusive of subsistence and quarters. Col. Pratt contributed about $3,000 toward recruiting expenses.
On the 12th of July, the regiment crossed into Virginia, and on the 19th, started in the Second Provisional brigade, (composed of the 16th, 18th, 31st and 32d), commanded by Colonel Davies, of the Sixteenth regiment, Fifth Division, (Miles' Reserve). On the 20th, it was in the advance, and encountered the Fifth and Sixth Alabama regiments, intrenched at the head of a steep road, near Fairfax Court-House. After a brisk skirmish it drove the enemy from their breastworks, followed up their retreat rapidly and captured their camp, with a quantity of provisions and other articles. At night the regiment was detached from the brigade and sent forward to meet a body of the enemy who were endeavoring to effect a flank movement on the advance of the skirmishers of the regiment; the enemy withdrew. On the 21st it was engaged on the left of the army, in the battle of Bull Run, and had the honor of being complimented for saving Major Hunt's Regular batteries.* [*See official report of Colonel Pratt.; Documents, p. 367, vol. II, Rebellion Record.]
On the return of the army to Washington, the regiment was temporarily assigned (Aug. 4th), to General Franklin's brigade, with the Fifteenth, Eighteenth and Thirty-second. On the 25th of September it was assigned to Gen Newton's (Third) brigade, of General Franklin's division, with the Eighteenth and Thirty-second. In this brigade it made the advance on Munson's and Mason's Hill, on the 28th of September, and skirmished all the way beyond to Springfield. It then united with its brigade in the construction of Fort Ward, in which work it was engaged during the autumn and early winter of 1861-2.
Early in March, 1862, General Newton's brigade was made the Third in General Franklin's (First) division, of General McDowells (First) corps. It participated in the advance on Manassas (March 10th), and then returned to Alexandria. In the latter part of April the division started under General McDowell by way of Manassas, and by hard marching reached Catlett's Station, on the Manassas railroad. Here the division was detached and ordered to join General McClellan on the Peninsula. It returned to Alexandria, where it embarked ; remained on transports several days, and landed at Brick House Point, (West Point), on the York river. On the 7th of May, the regiment was sent forward to meet the enemy. Almost alone and unsupported it encountered several brigades in dense wood. This was the key to the position and out of which all other regiments had been driven. For four hours it fought the enemy almost hand to hand, and drove him completely away. In this action it suffered the loss of several of its bravest men, and was highly complimented for its conduct in the official reports.
Soon after the affair at West Point, the division commanded by Gen. Franklin was made the Sixth corps. The command of the division (1st) fell upon Gen. Slocum. The brigade (3d) continued without change.
On the 27th of June, Gen. Slocum's division (under command of Gen. Newton) was sent to reinforce Gen. Porter's corps, and about half past 3 P. M., engaged in the battle of Gaines' Mill. The regiment was an active participant in this battle; fought until its ammunition was expended; lost its Colonel (Pratt) wounded, and many officers and men; charged and drove the enemy 700 yards through the woods to an open plain, and held the position until ordered back, and was the last to leave the front. In this battle the regiment lost 17 in killed, and 87 wounded.* [*See report of Col. Matheson (who commanded the brigade in this battle), in connection with Thirty-second regiment.]
Slocum's division covered the rear of Porter's corps in the march towards the James river, and was engaged at Gelding's Farm (June 28th) and Charles City Cross Roads (June 30th.) In the latter engagement, the regiment was under a most terrific artillery and infantry fire. The enemy was held in complete check, and Porter's command reached Malvern Hill, at which place (July 1st) the regiment completed its share of the "seven days' battles."
The regiment remained at Harrison's Landing until the 15th of August, when it started for Newport News; passed through Williamsburg and Yorktown and reached its destination on the 21st; embarked on the 22d, and arrived at Alexandria on the 23d. On the 28th, it was detached to guard the Fairfax railroad; advanced in the night to Burke's Station; drove the enemy from that place and succeeded in extinguishing the flames of a burning bridge, which otherwise Would have, been destroyed, thus saving the bridge and telegraph. It remained on guard until all the army had fallen back on Alexandria; on the 2d of September, the regiment went into Maryland, and on the 14th, was engaged in that portion of the battle of South Mountain, known as Crampton Gap, in which Gen. Slocum's division stormed the height, drove the enemy a mile beyond the battle ground, took a large number of prisoners, and encamped on the field. Its next action was at Antietam. Here, for two days, it was, while supporting batteries, subjected to a most furious and incessant shelling from the enemy's guns. It was the first regiment on that front which was ordered in the woods to follow up the enemy's retreat where it skirmished with the rear guard of the enemy and took many prisoners.
The regiment moved with its division to the Rappahannock, and was in the advance on Fredericksburg, in December. In this movement the division was under the command of Gen. Brooks, and the corps under Gen. W. F. Smith. The regiment was detached from its brigade and assigned to the support of battery D, Second United States Artillery. While protecting this, it was ordered forward to support the New Jersey brigade, which had engaged the enemy and been driven back. It formed a line of battle under a heavy fire, checked the retreat of the new regiments, and then (in junction with a Vermont regiment) charged the enemy; who retired to his intrenched position. The ground taken was held until nightfall when the regiment was relieved. It returned with the army and encamped at White Oak church, from which place it moved in the " mud march" of January, and then went into winter quarters.
In the Chancellorsville campaign the regiment was selected as one of five distinguished for dash and courage, to form a, Light brigade* in the Sixth corps. [*The Light brigade was composed of the Sixth Maine, Fifth Wisconsin, Thirty-first New York, Sixty-first Pennsylvania, Forty-Third New York, and Third Ind. Battery N. Y. Artillery, and was under command of Brigadier General Calvin E. Pratt, formerly colonel of the Thirty-first New York.] On the 28th of April it marched with this brigade to within a mile of the Rappahannock, and during the night assisted in the construction of the pontoon bridge. It was with the first troops of its brigade which crossed the river, where it assisted in driving the enemy from his rifle-pits on the bank. The Light brigade had the honor to open the battle of the 2d of May, when it drove back the enemy's pickets and gave the Sixth corps opportunity to form. On the 3d it formed in line of battle at 2 A. M., and moved to the front of the enemy's works in the rear of Fredericksburg, where it lay down. At 1 P. M. the charge was sounded and the brigade clashed on to Marye's Heights. The action was short but decisive, and the State colors of the regiment were the first in the enemy's works, riddled in its passage thither by a whole charge of grape shot. The brigade soon started in pursuit of the retreating enemy, advanced about two miles and found its (Brook's) division engaged; formed in line of battle and advanced to within supporting distance. The enemy were repulsed at this point by the artillery. On the 4th it was at the front all day, but was not engaged. At night the brigade was loft to cover the retreat of the army, but was surprised and the regiment lost about 100 men in prisoners, together with all its knapsacks, &c. It returned to its old camp on the 5th, having borne the lion's portion in the fighting by the Light brigade.
The Light brigade was soon after broken up, and the regiments of which it was composed returned to their old commands. The regiment remained in camp until the 21st of May, when it returned to New York and was there mustered out of service.
Authorization to re-organize the regiment was issued to Colonel Frank Jones, June 3d, 1863. A number of recruits were received under this order, but were subsequently consolidated with the One Hundred and Seventy-eighth regiment and with the Fifth regiment battalion.
The statistics of the regiment have not been furnished complete. On leaving the State it had a total of 802 officers and men. On the 1st of January, 1862, it had 830, and received during the year 93 recruits—total to January, 1863, 923. There were very few desertions from the regiments, and the members lost to its rolls by reason of sickness and as prisoners of war, were quite small. It was always at the front, and so severe were its losses in battle and by wounds, that out of the 923 men received prior to January, 1863, only about 200 remained to be mustered out at the expiration of its term of service. The regiment was never broken, and maintained a high reputation for discipline and tactics. Most of its old members, both officers and men, re-entered the service after the Thirty-first was mustered out.