Dedication Of Monument at Gettysburg - 42nd New York Infantry Regiment
September 24, 1891
Oration By Maj. Gen. Daniel E. Sickles
The Forty-second New York Infantry was raised and organized by the Tammany Society, in the City of New York, in May and June, 1861. The regiment was taken to the field by the Grand Sachem of that year, Col. William D. Kennedy, who died a few days afterward in Washington, in July. Colonel Kennedy was succeeded by Capt. Milton Cogswell, an accomplished officer of the Regular Army. Among the Sachems of Tammany who were conspicuous in their efforts to raise this famous battalion, I may mention Elijah F. Purdy, Daniel E. Delavan, Isaac Bell, Thomas Dunlap, Smith Ely, and John Clancy.
Early in the same year, 1861, several other Tammany leaders raised regiments and brigades for the war. Among them were the Chasseurs, organized by Gen. John Cochrane, the brigades of Gen. Thomas Francis Meagher, and General Corcoran, and the brigade of General Sickles, which was composed of five regiments.
Meagher's and Nugent's Sixty-ninth Regiment lost more men in battle, killed and wounded, than any infantry regiment from the State of New York. Sickles' First Excelsior lost the most men killed and wounded in one battle, having lost at Williamsburg, 79 killed and 168 wounded, including 7 officers killed and 22 wounded out of 33 officers present. At Antietam, 8 color-bearers of the Irish Brigade were shot down at Bloody Lane, but the brigade carried the position. At Fredericksburg the color sergeant of the Sixty-ninth was found dead with his flag concealed and wrapped around his body, a bullet having pierced the flag and his heart. At Antietam, the Forty-second, then in Dana's Brigade, Sedgwick's Division of the Second Corps, charged with Sedgwick into the woods around the Dunker Church, where it lost 180 out of the 345 who were engaged. Maj. James E. Mallon, afterward colonel of the Forty-second, is especially mentioned by General Howard and Colonel Hall, the brigade and division commanders, for his efficient and fearless services in keeping the men in ranks under fire, and for his daring in recovering the fallen colors of his regiment in the face of the advancing enemy. Col. Edmund C. Charles, of the Forty-second was left wounded, supposed mortally, at Nelson's Farm, one of the Seven Days' battles.
In the Chancellorsville campaign, the Forty-second, under Mallon, was present at the assault and capture of Fredericksburg; and here again the regiment is especially commended by the brigade commander, Col. Norman J. Hall, not only for its coolness and steadiness in battle, but also for the admirable discipline that under the most trying circumstances saved its position from the effects of a panic, created by a false alarm in the night. Again, at Gettysburg, the Forty-second, under Colonel Mallon, was distinguished for gallant conduct in the second and third days of this battle. In the final charge of Armistead's Brigade of the enemy, Sergt. Michael Cuddy, the color bearer, was mortally wounded. Already distinguished at Fredericksburg for daring courage, this heroic soldier, a moment after he fell with his colors, rose in the face of the advancing enemy, and triumphantly waving the flag he so dearly loved, this flag I now hold, dropped dead — his body covering the standard. At Bristoe Station the brave Colonel Mallon, then commanding a brigade, was killed at the extreme front while rallying his own regiment under a heavy fire.
At Ball's Bluff, in 1861, under Cogswell; in the Seven Days' Battles, in 1862, under Charles; at Antietam and Fredericksburg, in 1862, under Bomford; at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Bristoe Station, in 1863, under Mallon; in the Wilderness Campaign, in 1864, under Lynch, this intrepid old regiment gained fresh honors in every conflict, until its term of enlistment expired July 13, 1864, when it was mustered out of service, transferring a number of its men who re-enlisted, together with the recruits, to the Eighty-second New York.
The Forty-second took part in 36 battles and engagements. The largest losses of the regiment were in the great battles of Antietam and Gettysburg, in which it lost in killed and wounded 18 officers and 223 enlisted men; and considering the total number of men present in the line of battle in the regiment, this record gives the Forty-second the right to be included, as history has already included it, among the great fighting regiments of the war.
The history of the Tammany Society which raised this regiment at the outbreak of the war, dates from the foundation of our Government. This historical organization was conspicuous among the founders of the great political party with which it has always been identified. Among its illustrious roll of Sachems are included the names of George Clinton, Philip Schuyler, Walter Bowne, Brockholst Livingston, Samuel Osgood, Daniel D. Tompkins, Garret Sickles, Stephen Allen, Michael Ulshoeffer, John A. Dix, Samuel J. Tilden, Augustus Schell, John Van Buren, Churchill C. Cambrelling and John T. Irving.
Jefferson, Madison, Clinton, and Jackson found their strongest supporters in its ranks. Established as a bulwark against the aristocratic traditions and tendencies inherited from British ancestors, it supported Jefferson and his policy of shaping our institutions and customs according to the maxims of the Declaration of Independence. In the War of 1812 with England, the Society of Tammany sustained President Madison and Governor Tompkins in all the war measures that brought that memorable conflict to an honorable peace. It resisted the efforts of secessionists and the treasonable overtures then for the first time heard in the East. It supported Jackson in his measures for the suppression of nullification in South Carolina; and it sustained him in his long struggle against the money power, which, under the leadership of the Bank of the United States, assumed to control the financial policy of the Government. It supported Polk and Marcy in the War with Mexico, in the annexation of Texas, and in the acquisition of California, which established our boundaries on the Pacific and the Gulf of Mexico.
When the Civil War of 1861 followed the election of Lincoln, the influence of Tammany Hall was instantly shown in the patriotic action of the Common Council of our city, where its power was supreme, pledging to the President all the resources of the municipality, in men and money, for the support of the Government, in the enforcement of the laws, and to maintain the Union.
Let me here recall the concluding resolutions of the series, unanimously adopted by the New York Common Council at a special meeting of the Board of Aldermen, convened on the 19th of April, 1861, while the echoes of Sumter were still heard. These resolutions I had the honor to draft.
Resolved, That we invoke in this crisis the unselfish patriotism and the unfaltering loyalty which have been uniformly manifested in all periods of national peril by the population of the City of New York; and while we reiterate our undiminished affection for the friends of the Union who have gallantly and faithfully labored in the Southern States for the preservation of peace, and the restoration of fraternal relations among the people, and our readiness to co-operate with them in all honorable measures of reconciliation, yet, we only give expression to the convictions of our constituents when we declare it to be their unalterable purpose, as it is their solemn duty, to do all in their power to uphold and defend the integrity of the Union, and to vindicate the honor of our flag, and to crush the power of those who are enemies in war, as in peace they were friends.
Resolved, That a copy of the foregoing preamble and resolutions be transmitted to the President of the United States, and to the Governor of the State of New York.
I well remember the words of President Lincoln, referring to this action of our city government, a few days afterward, when I called upon him for instructions touching the command I had undertaken to raise on the invitation of Governor Morgan. He said: " Sickles, I have here on my table the resolutions passed by your Common Council appropriating a million of dollars toward raising men for this war, and promising to do all in the power of your authorities to support the Government. When these resolutions were brought to me by Alderman Frank Boole and his associates of the Committee, I felt my burden lighter. I felt that when men break through party lines and take this patriotic stand for the Government and the Union, all must come out well in the end. When you see them, tell them for me, they made my heart glad, and I can only say, God bless them."
This action of the Common Council of New York made the great city a unit for national defence; it united all parties for the Union. Men and money were given without stint for the war; gold flowed from Wall street to the National Treasury like the stream of another Pactolus; every house and every shop was a recruiting station.
The electric flash that brought the news of Sumter to the North was not quicker than the martial current that sped from man to man and from woman to woman, transforming our people from civilians to soldiers. The flag lowered at Sumter was unfurled everywhere on spires of church and cathedral, in Wall Street, in market place, in every village and every schoolhouse, and over the homes of the rich and poor, far and near. The newspapers, like mirrors, reflected the universal war movement of the people. Public meetings were as spontaneous as the April leaves that fill the woods, and Union Square could not hold the thousands poured into it from every avenue and street, like unloosened streams hurrying to the sea. Go where you would, there was but one theme to talk about — the impending war. Traffic lost its thrift, industries were tedious, amusements lacked zest, and it was only the sound of the drum and the bugle that won every ear. The flag so long without meaning, unless seen far away from home, on some distant sea, or in a foreign land, all at once had a new charm; it filled our eyes and stirred our hearts. We counted its stars; it stood for the Union. For the rich, it meant their wealth; for the poor, who have only a country and a home, it meant everything they held dear; for the slave, it meant freedom. We saw the colors proudly carried by the battalions hastily summoned to Washington; and among the multitudes that filled the streets, gayly decked with a thousand banners, there were not many who did not wish themselves in the ranks.
The State of New York raised 400,000 men for the Union armies. Of these vast numbers, 53,000 died in service. Our State has erected 76 monuments on this battlefield, commemorating the heroic services of its battalions and its batteries. Of the 300 renowned battalions in the army, whose losses in battle, in killed and wounded, as shown by Fox, were the greatest — 59 were New York troops. In this number are included 4 of the 5 regiments of Sickles' Brigade.
From 1861 to 1865 the State of New York expended $125,000,000 in raising and equipping its troops. The New York regiments and batteries took part in more than 1,000 battles, engagements, and skirmishes. Of the 250 regiments of infantry, cavalry, and engineers raised in our State, 127 of them were organized and mainly recruited in the city of New York. The very large enlistments for the navy, besides, were mainly drawn 'from our city.. The municipal authorities and our citizens never faltered a moment in their efforts to advance the cause of the Union. The City Hall Park was filled with barracks; the families of the city volunteers received an allowance toward their support from the city treasury, a bounty nowhere else given. Millions were voted by the city to equip the municipal regiments. And afterward we supported enthusiastically the heroes of Antietam and Gettysburg for the highest honors in the gift of the Republic. This is the honorable war record of our patriotic metropolis.
There are nearly 400 monuments on this battlefield; all but two of them commemorate the services of the soldiers who fought this battle. I have seen many monuments in other countries erected in honor of commanders of armies, but it was reserved for us to signalize in this manner the heroism of the rank and file of our battalions. Apart from this battlefield, a hundred of these memorials are already placed in as many towns and cities. There is no better way to prepare for the next war than to show your appreciation of your defenders in the last war. No nation can long survive the decline of its martial strength. When it ceases to honor its soldiers, it will have none. It cannot be said of our Republic that it has been ungrateful. We give more than a hundred million dollars a year, in pensions, to the soldiers of our wars. We recognize their right to share in the grand result of their achievements. Our people help the helpless survivors; we try to save their families from want; we erect monuments to the men who fell in battle. The military power of this country rests in the ranks of its reserves, the 6,000,000 of citizens ready to volunteer to take up arms whenever the exigency demands their services.
There is a day and an hour in the annals of every nation when its life hangs on the issue of a battle; when it stands or falls by the sword. Such a battle was Gettysburg. You are now standing on the field where the destiny of this Republic was decided. Right here, are some of the brave soldiers, veterans of the Forty-second, who helped to win the decisive victory for the Union. You stand, right here, on a spot that was a vortex of battle; man to man, steel against steel, rifle and cannon and sword, shot and shell, the hoarse voices of desperate combatants, the smoke and flame and the clash of arms. Right here, near this clump of trees the resolute onset of the veteran divisions led by Pickett and Pettigrew and Trimble met the solid front of Hancock's Corps as the ocean wave strikes the rock, and like the wave, was dashed into spray as the advancing lines of the enemy broke into fragments against the wall of Hancock's bayonets.
Right here, in the thickest of the combat stood your own gallant Forty-second, under the eye of the young and gifted Mallon. He says in his official report: " I formed the regiment in line, facing the decisive point; the line was but fairly established and but just started in the direction of the contested point, when Colonel Hall, our brigade commander, with words of encouragement cheered us forward. With the impetus conveyed by these words, the regiment vigorously advanced, and in that charge which rescued our batteries from the hands of our foe, which saved our army from disaster, which gave to us glorious success, this regiment was foremost and its flag in the advance."
Right here, too, the brave Michael Cuddy fell with his flag, this very flag, and here he rose once more, as Mallon says, " and waved his flag in the face of the enemy not ten yards distant — that flag he loved so well, of which he was so proud, and for which his precious life without a murmur was freely given up." All honor then to Meagher, O'Rourke, Kelly, Corcoran, De Lacy, Mallon, and Cuddy — glorious types of the Irish-American soldier.
Of the effective force of 80,000 men, on our side, engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg, 27,000, fully one-third, were New York troops. And of the total loss in the Union Army, 23,000, our loss was 6,707.
The day is not distant, I trust, when the War Department will establish a military post here, at Gettysburg, which shall include the battlefield among its dependencies, so that all of the topographical features of the ground may remain unimpaired, and the numerous monuments erected by eighteen States on this field, may be properly guarded and preserved. Such a military post should be garrisoned by at least one company of artillery, with its appropriate,, equipment, to the end that the morning and evening gun may forever salute the flag of the Union which was so heroically defended on this consecrated ground.
To-day Europe is a camp. The soil trembles with the tread of millions of armed men that listen for the command that will begin a conflict such as the world has never seen. Happily, here we enjoy the tranquillity of perfect peace. Our battles are fought; fraternity at home and good will abroad are stronger guarantees than armies. France, Germany, Austria, and Russia are now disciplining their vast armies in sham battles, the school of war. We spend our money in teaching our children the arts of peace, and while you enjoy its blessings you have chosen a fit moment to commemorate the men who won this boon for us at the cost of precious sacrifices.
The soldiers of 1861 were not enlisted in a war of conquest. They did not follow an ambitious usurper; they were not tools of kings to rivet chains on unwilling hands. They took up arms for the people, of whom they were a part, to save the people's government, and to maintain the people's Union. The volunteers of 1861 were the flower of our young manhood. If they were poor in purse, they had at least a home and a country, and for these they gave all they had to give — their time, their services, and their lives. For their homes and country and for you they risked wounds, disease, privations, and poverty. Compare the situation of this country in 1861 with its position now, and you will all comprehend why it is that so many States and cities and towns have erected soldiers' monuments. The same comparison helps us to understand why it is that we give a hundred million dollars a year in pensions to soldiers and sailors. These proofs of public appreciation and gratitude mark the estimate put by our citizens on the services rendered to the country by the Army and Navy from 1861 to 1865. In our time no ruler will be chosen in this country who will take a dollar away from the bounty given by a grateful nation to its defenders.
Standing near the magnificent tomb of Napoleon in Paris, some years ago, my son, then a boy of six or seven years, said to me, " Father, does Napoleon know what a beautiful monument he has? " This question, like many others asked by inquisitive boys and girls, was not easy to answer. I trust that the brave and faithful soldiers of the Republic who fell in the great conflict, far away from home and kindred, now see and know what is done for their memory by the men and women of this generation. I trust they know something of the splendor and the strength of the Republic they died to save. Let the presence of your own heroic dead consecrate this monument. Let it stand for uncounted years, to tell the story of Tammany's devotion to the country in time of war, and of her love for her soldiers who fell in the great conflict. American from head to foot in its beautiful design, graceful in form, impressive in its grand proportions, let this memorial remind the coming generations, as long as bronze and granite lasts, of the debt they owe to the Tammany Braves of 1861.