32nd New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

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

Thirty-Second Regiment Infantry N. Y. S. V.

The organization of this regiment was commenced under the synonym of "First California Regiment," with the design of placing it under the command of Senator E. D. Baker, of California. In effecting the organization, however, a misunderstanding arose which led to the withdrawal of several of the officers, and the organization of an independent regiment.* [*Senator Baker subsequently commanded the Seventy-first Pennsylvania volunteers, and was killed at Ball's Bluff, October 21, 1861. + Transferred from Seventeenth regiment.] The companies composing the regiment were recruited and accepted as. follows:

Co. Where recruited By whom recruited Order No. Date of acceptance
A Ithaca Capt. Jerome Rowe 335 May 1, 1861
B Amsterdam Capt. Charles Hubbs 237 April 26, 1861
C Johnstown Capt. Barry J. Hays 530 May 7, 1861
D Amsterdam Capt. Elisha S. Youngs 585 May 9, 1861
E New York and Tompkins co Capt. Ross A. Fish 636 May 14, 1861
F New York Capt. Jas. H. Butler 638 May 14, 1861
G New York Capt. Russell Myers 639 May 15, 1861
H Tarrytown Capt. William Chalmers 353 May 2, 1861
I Ithaca Capt. John Whitlock 513 May 7, 1861
K New York Capt. Wm. H. Robinson 620 May 13, 1861


The regiment was organized on the 14th of May, 1861, by order of Brigadier General Yates, under Special Orders 187. In effecting this organization the claims of Messrs. Matheson and Pinto to the command being regarded as equal, were decided by lot in favor of the former. An election was then held and Roderick Matheson was elected colonel; Francis E. Pinto lieutenant-colonel; and George F. Lemon, major. At a meeting of the State board, cm the 22d, it was" Resolved, That the companies * * formed into a regiment by order of Brigadier General Yates, and in which an election has been held by his order, be recognized and numbered No. 32, and that the services of Roderick Matheson as colonel, Francis E. Pinto as lieutenant-colonel, and George F. Lemon as major, be accepted, and their election confirmed." By Special Orders 215 (May 22, 1861) Colonel Matheson was ordered to re-port to General Yates for duty, and to hold his regiment in readiness to he mustered into the service of the United States.

The original headquarters of the regiment were at 950 Broadway, New York. By order of General Yates it was moved, May 16th to " camp Yates," New Dorp, Staten Island. The field and staff were mustered on the 31st of May, and the several companies on the 31st May and 13th of June, by Capt. M. Cogswell, U. S. A. The regiment was supplied with U. S. percussion muskets, model of 1842, (subsequently exchanged for Springfield muskets and Springfield rifles), and with uniforms, tents, &c. To assist in its organization the Union Defense Committee, expended $l,303, and the State $38,597.42, exclusive of subsistence and quarters.

The regiment left the State on the 20th of June and arrived in Washington on the lst of July. It crossed the Potomac on the 8th and went into encampment near Fort. Ellsworth, two miles and a half from Alexandria, Here it was assigned to the Second brigade, (Col. Davies), Fifth division, (Col. Miles). On the 15th it advanced with the army towards Centreville, and encamped on the Braddock road; on the 16th surprised and routed an Alabama regiment, and captured eight of their number near Fairfax Court House; on the 17th, encamped at night in the valley south of Centreville; on the 20th the left wing, under command of Lieutenant Colonel Pinto, made a reconnoissance to Blackburn's Ford, found the enemy strongly entrenched and returned to camp at 8 P. M.; on the 21st at 2 A. M., received orders to be in readiness to march, and marched at 6 A. M. to the scene of action, where it was assigned to the support of a battery on the left of the line. It retired from the field about 6 P. M.., and covered the retreat until it reached Centreville Heights, where it was formed into a hollow square and repulsed a large force of the enemy's cavalry. It reached its former encampment on the 22d, and upon calling the roll only one man was found missing.

On the 21st of August companies K and D established the first line of pickets beyond Munson's Hill. About this time it was assigned to General Newton's (Third) brigade, of General Franklin's division, with the Fifteenth, Eighteenth and Thirty-first New York and with this brigade made the reconnoissance in force to Munson's Hill on the 28th of September. During the fall and early winter it assisted in the construction of Fort Ward, and went into winter quarters with its brigade.

On the 10th of March the regiment took part in the general advance upon Centreville and Manassas—its brigade forming part of General Franklin's division of General McDowell's First corps. On the 9th of April it reached Catlett's Station. Here General Franklin's division was detached from General McDowell's corps and returned to Alexandria, where (April 17th) it embarked on transports for the Peninsula campaign. It arrived in Poquosin bay on the 19th, where, after a few days it disembarked and encamped until May 4th, when it re-embarked and proceeded up the river to opposite Yorktown, from whence on the 5th, it proceeded to West Point. At 2 P. M. on the 6th, the division landed. " At about 9 A. M. on the 7th, a large force of the enemy appeared, consisting of Whiting's division and other troops, and between 10 and 11 A. M. they attacked the part of the line held by Newton's brigade. The action continued until 3 P. M., when the enemy retired, all his attacks having been repulsed."* [*McClellan's Report, p. 92.]In this action the Thirty-second was the most heavily engaged. In the early part of the engagement it sent out three companies as skirmishers, while the remainder of the regiment supported Hexhamer's bat tery. It was soon after ordered to sweep the woods in front of its position at all hazards. An advance was immediately, made in line of battle, the right resting upon a deep morass, thus guarding against any attempt of the enemy to make a flank movement on the right. After advancing about a quarter of a mile the enemy ("Hampton's Legion" and the " Louisiana Tigers ") was encountered, and fierce fire opened on the regiment. The action was sustained with great gallantry, and the enemy driven from the field. Although other troops of the brigade were engaged, almost the entire loss fell upon the Thirty-second.

On the 7th of May, Franklin's division was organized as the Sixth corps, under command of Gen. Franklin, and Gen. Slocum succeeded to the command of the division (1st.) The brigade (3d) remained under Gen, Newton without change. The regiment left West' Point on the 10th; passed through Cumberland, White House Point, Tunstall's Station and Coal Harbor, and reached New Market bridge on the 25th. Here it encamped on the farm of Dr. Raines, near Gaines' Mill. On the 18th of June it crossed the chickahominy at Woodbury's Bridge, and encamped near Smith's division.

The battle of Gaines' Mill occurred on the 27th of Juue. + [+ The brigade in this action was under command of Col. Matheson of the Thirty-second New York, and the division under Gen. Newton.]The part taken by the regiment in this action is stated in its official report of Col. Matheson, July 5th, as follows:

" The Thirty-second, Eighteenth and Thirty-first New York, and the Ninety-fifth Pennsylvania Volunteers, were ordered to cross the Chickahominy to the support of Porter's division, who was keeping in check an advance of the enemy upon his lines. The regiment arrived upon the field of battle about, four o'clock P. M. At this time orders were received to so place the Thirty-second and Eighteenth regiments upon the field as in my discretion I deemed best, when they immediately went to relievo the Massachusetts regiments, who were occupying a position upon an eminence, in front of a belt of woods which protected the enemy's front line in that locality. This position the Thirty-second and Eighteenth retained against the assaults of superior forces until I was compelled to send my Adjutant to report our situation, as well as the want of ammunition. In the meantime, I ordered Lieuten-ant Colonel Pinto to bring up the Thirty-first regiment, who were lying in a deep cut to the left of our position. Ordering Lieutenant-Colonel Pinto to take charge of the Thirty-second and Eighteenth regiments, I instantly, led the Thirty-first forward to meet the enemy, who appeared in large force on our right flank. This position was held until sufficient time had elapsed for the Thirty-second and Eighteenth, under the command of LieutenantColonel Pinto, to change their position, when I ordered the Major of the Thirty-first (the Colonel being wounded) to retire, keeping up the fire until he reached a position behind the fence, lying along the road or deep cut. Orders were then given for the Thirty-second and Eighteenth to retire into the woods skirting, our left, which position they held until the enemy appeared in such force upon our left as compelled us to retire, which they all did in good order, and formed in line of battle on the brow of the hill across the road leading to Woodbury's Bridge, where we remained until 10 o'clock A. M., of the 28th, when orders were received to return across the Chickahominy. Both officers and men behaved nobly during the entire action. The loss sustained in killed, wounded and missing was fifty-eight."

During the battle of White Oak Swamp (June 30), the regiment supported Hexhamer's battery. It was under a heavy artillery fire from 12 o'clock M., until dark, and was then ordered to guard the out-posts against any surprise of the enemy, as well as to protect and guard the transportation and supply trains of the division. It also supported the same battery at Turkey Bend (July 1st) during the battle of Malvern Hill. It arrived at Harrison's Landing about 6 A. M., on the 2d of July.

The regiment left Harrison's Landing on the 10th of August; crossed the Chickahominy on the 17th; passed through Williamsburg on the 18th; arrived at Yorktown on the 19th; marched through the village of Warwick Court House on the 20th; reached Newport News on the 21st, and there embarked (22d) on the steamer Daniel Webster, in company with the Eighteenth regiment; landed at Alexandria on the 24th and marched up the Little River turnpike to near the seminary and encamped; marched for the front on the 29th; reached Centreville at 4 P. M., on the 30th, and was assigned to Centreville Heights as one of the reserve regiments. From this position it fell back with the army to Alexandria.* [* See History of Eighteenth regiment.]

The Maryland campaign opened on the 6th of September, The regiment moved with its brigade during the night of the 6th, crossed the Long Bridge, and in the morning reached Tennlly-town; passed through Rockville on the 8th; Darnestown on the 9th; Downesville on the 11th; Urbanna on the 12th, and arrived at Burkettsville, near Crampton Gap, on the 14th, about 2 o'clock, P. M. The action of the regiment in this battle, as well as in the battle at Antietam on the 17th, is reported as follows:

" Sept. 14. At 4 o'clock, P.M., the brigade to which the regiment is attached was deployed in two lines of attack. The Thirty-second was in front and advanced in line of battle over numer ous fences, under a shower of shot and shell, preserving their lino in perfect order, and halting about one hundred yards from the enemy's line, who were protected by a stone wall running along the base of the hill, known as Crampton Gap, until the lines on the right and left of the regiment were properly formed for the final assault. The time thus occupied was about fifteen minutes, when the order was given to charge. The regiment advanced at a double quick, with the greatest impetuosity and courage, leap ing the stone wall that protected the enemy, breaking their line. The enemy panic-stricken, fled up the mountain side, the regiment gallantly pursuing them, meeting and breaking fresh lines of the enemy, who poured a murderous volley upon our advancing troops. Undaunted they still pressed on, routing the strong reserve in the Gap, and finally achieving one of the most brilliant victories of the war. These results were not consummated with out severe loss. At least 25 per cent, of our right were either killed or wounded. It was in, this battle that our Colonel and Major were mortally wounded, both of whom have since died. The loss sustained by the regiment was fifty-nine, in killed and wounded.

" September 17. The regiment, under command of Lieut. Col. Pinto, after a rapid march of eight miles, arrived on the battle field at Antietam Valley about 11 o'clock A. M. the brigade was deployed in four lines of attack—the Thirty-second regiment in the front line, immediately in front of the batteries of the corps, and within two hundred yards of the enemy, on the extreme right of the line, which had been taken and re-taken three times that morning. During the remainder of the day the enemy kept up a terrific fire, shot falling and shell bursting all around our position. The men, clinging close to mother earth, escaped with hut small loss. The regiment occupied this position until the morning of the 19th, throwing out skirmishers by day and pickets by night, when it was discovered that the enemy had retired from our front. The loss sustained by the regiment was five wounded.

From Antietam the regiment moved with its division to near Shepardstown Ford, and from thence to Bakersville, where it remained about one month. ON the 29th of October, the corps moved on another advance into Virginia; crossed the mountain at Crampton Gap on the 31st, and arrived at Berlin; crossed the Potomac at Berlin on the 2d of November, and from thence continued the march; passed through Perceyville on the 3d; reached Union on the 4th; passed Upperville on the 5th, and encamped on the 6th at White Plains, on the Manassas Gap railroad; on the 9th, crossed Bull Run mountains to New Baltimore; on the 17th, reached Catlett's Station, and, on the 18th, Stafford Court-House. From Stafford Court-House it marched to near Belle Plain Landing, and there encamped.

Meanwhile some changes had occurred in the command. Army Grand divisions were organized; the left (Third) under General Franklin. The corps (Sixth) came tinder General W. F. Smith. General Newton had succeeded General Slocum in command of the division, and had in turn been succeeded by General Brooks; and Col. Matheson, who commanded the brigade at Crampton Gap, and was mortally wounded in that action, had been succeeded by Colonel J. J. Bartlett (now Brevet Major General) of the Twenty-seventh N. Y.

The brigade reached the Rappahannock on the 11th of December, about 4 P. M. On the 12th it was ordered to cross the, river at a point about two miles below the city of Fredericksburg, as a part of General Franklin's Left Grand division. The subsequent action of the regiment is reported as follows:

" The brigade crossed the river, at the point indicated, under cover of a dense fog. 'The Eighteenth N. Y. Vols, was deployed skirrmishers, The Thirty-second N. Y. occupied its old position in the front line, and was ordered to advance. The enemy's skirmishers fell back, and the regiment advanced until it reached the enemy's main line, where a halt was ordered. At about 12 o'clock, M. the fog lifted; discovering to the enemy our position, who immediately opened upon us a severe artillery fire from the range of hills in our front. Their fire was incessant for nearly two hours, but done little damage, as the regiment was sheltered by a rise of ground in front of which they took position. There the regiment remained until the next morning, the men suffering severely from cold and want of shelter.

" December 13th. Regiment relieved by fresh troops. About nine o'clock our right and left became engaged. Everything remained quiet in front until about one o'clock, P. M., when the enemy made an attack upon the first New Jersey brigade, which was occupying our front line. The Fifteenth New Jersey broke and retired in disorder, when the Thirty-first and Thirty-second New York Vols. were ordered to advance and check the enemy's progress, which was done in a gallant manner. The enemyimme-diately fell back. Night closing in upon us, all further operations were suspended for the day.

" December 14th. Everything remained quiet along the line, except occasional picket firing. " December 15th. Regiment detailed to the front for picket duty. Nothing occurred to disturb the quiet which reigned along the lines of the previous day.

" December 16th. About three o'clock, .A. M., received orders to withdraw the regiment from picket duty, and start, without noise, and re-cross the Rappahannock, which was successfully accomplished before daylight—the entire army having crossed nearly two hours previous to the crossing of this regiment. Too much praise cannot be awarded the officers and men of the regiment for the manner in which they carried out the order of withdrawal, all knowing and feeling that they were alone upon this part of the field, and with no reserve to fall back or rely upon. The loss sustained by the regiment was one killed and three wounded."

The regiment returned to camp near Belle Plain, and remained until the 20th of January, when it participated in the second advance under General Burnside, and reached Banks' Ford. The movement was defeated, it will be remembered, by the heavy fall of rain, which rendered the roads impassable, and won for the movement the title of the " mud march." The regiment then went into winter quarters, with picket and camp duties and occasional reviews.

Soon after General Hooker succeeded to the command of the army several changes were made in the brigade and corps. Grand divisions were abolished. General Sedgwick succeeded General Smith in command of the Sixth corps, (Feb. 5th, 1863). General Russell succeeded to the command of the Third brigade, from which the Thirty-first regiment was detached for the. Independent Light brigade, organized in the First division, under General Pratt; and the One Hundred and Nineteenth Pennsylvania vol-unteers, was transferred to the brigade.

The brigade moved on the 28th of April, to the bank of the Rappahannock, where it was assigned to the duty of crossing the river in boats during the night, and cover the building of the pontoon bridges. A delay occurred, however, and the boats did not start until day-dawn on the 1st of May. The 'movement was effected in good order. The enemy were driven from their rifle-pits and entrenchments thrown up, covering the subsequent opera-tions. On the 2d, the brigade advanced half a mile ; and on the 3d, the Thirty-second and Eighteenth New York, lay in position supporting battery D, Second U. S. Artillery, near the ruins of the Barnard house, where they were shelled four hours by the enemy. At 1 P. M. the Thirty-second and Eighteenth marched into Fredericksburg and bivouacked in the streets until 5 P. M., when they advanced out about four miles on the plank road towards Chancel-lorsville. The brigade was got together in the evening at Salem, Church, and remained in this position until the afternoon of the 4th, when the Sixth corps retreated to Banks' Ford, a distance of five miles, and crossed in the night under fire from the enemy's batteries. On the 5th, 6th and 7th, rested near the ford, and on the 8th returned to winter camp.

The regiment left the field on the 25th of May, and reached New York on the 27th, where it was mustered out.


The statistics of the regiment are imperfect. It left for the field with 842 officers and men, and reported 730 as its strength on the first of September following. On the first of January, 1863, it reported as follows:

Number of enlisted men at organization   797
Number of recruits received   243
Total   1,040
Discharged 155  
Deserted 71  
Missing in action 1  
Promoted 11  
Transferred 5  
Dropped by General Orders 132  
Deaths 38  
Killed in action or died of wounds 34  
Present and absent on leave 581 1,040
Wounded in action   127
On extra duty   47
Sick   9
Musicians   13
Number of effective men present   397
TOTAL   593