52nd New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

By Surg. Charles H. Althans [Aka Althaus]

Taken from Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg (New York at Gettysburg) by the New York Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga. Albany, NY: J.B. Lyon Company, 1902.

The regiment was organized in the early summer of 1861, shortly after the return of the three-months' troops under the first call of President Lincoln for 300,000 men. It was essentially a German organization, being formed by the consolidation of two skeleton regiments, viz.: the German Rangers and Sigel Rifles, both of which were recruited in New York City.

It was mustered into the United States service on October 25, 1861, with Col. Paul Frank commanding, and 1,000 men, rank and file. The regiment started for the seat of war on November 2d, and went into camp at Bladensburg, Md., near Washington, D. C. After one month's drill, it marched into Virginia and encamped at Fairfax Seminary, near Alexandria, Va., where it was assigned to the Third Brigade (General French), First Division (General Richardson), Second Corps (General Sumner). During winter quarters it underwent continuous drill until March 10, 1862. On March 11th, the division broke camp, and advanced to the line of the Rappahannock, by way of Manassas, after which it countermarched to Alexandria, Va., where it embarked on transports and sailed to Shipping Point, near Yorktown.

At the siege of Yorktown, and at the battle of Williamsburg, the regiment was held in reserve. But in the advance on Richmond, at the battle of Fair Oaks, the regiment lost 125 men killed and wounded. During the Peninsular campaign, the Fifty-second had a large sick list, and lost a number of men of typho-malaria or swamp fever. During the Seven Days' Battles, at Fraser's Farm, White Oak Swamp, and Malvern Hill, the regiment lost 34 men killed and wounded. After encamping awhile at Harrison's Landing, it left for Washington on transports, and marched to join Pope's army, on the campaign at Second Bull Run. The Fifty-second participated in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, losing 29 killed and wounded in the latter engagement. Returning to Virginia, it was engaged at the battle of Fredericksburg, where it lost 43 men, including the major and adjutant.

At Chancellorsville the regiment suffered severely for the number engaged, entering the battle with less than 200 men, of whom about 40 were killed and wounded.

The corps broke camp about the middle of June, and entered upon the Gettysburg campaign. Our regiment lost about 20 men, disabled from marching and fatigue before reaching the battlefield. On the evening of the second day, the Fifty-second was engaged from 5 to 8 o'clock. It fought on the left of the Third Brigade (Zook's) of the First Division, and lost a great many men in the woods between the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard. Being forced back, it left many wounded in the Wheatfield. The regiment lost its lieutenant colonel, major, a greater part of its line officers, the color bearer, and about 30 enlisted men. I think almost one-half of its whole number were killed or wounded, as the regiment went into the fight with less than 100 men. Major Venuti was among the killed. On the third day no loss was sustained.

About the end of August we marched to Mitchell's Station, near the Rapidan River, and went into camp. There we received 800 recruits with muskets, drafted men and substitutes, which made the ranks of the Fifty-second look like a new regiment.

On October 2d, we broke camp, and after marching and countermarching to Culpeper and Brandy Station, had a skirmish at Auburn (Coffee Hill) with a part of Gen. J. E. B. Stuart's Cavalry, which had encamped during the night in the midst of our division. After the fight at Bristoe Station, we marched back to Centreville. On this retreat the regiment lost nearly 150 of its new men, mostly taken prisoners. Marching back to the Rappahannock in November, the Fifty-second was engaged at Mine Run, where it lost several men. Recrossing the river, it went into camp at Stevensburg, Va., where it established winter quarters. The winter was passed in drills and reconnoissances.

On May 3, 1864, the regiment crossed the Rapidan, on the Wilderness campaign. In the fighting about Spotsylvania Court House, from May 9th until May 18th, it lost 164 men, killed and wounded. Among the killed were six line officers.

March resumed to North Anna, South Anna, and Totopotomoy Rivers; lost 10 men. Battle of Cold Harbor; loss of many men. Crossed the James River; marched to Petersburg; battle of June 16th, 18th, and 22d; lost a number of men. Flank march to Deep Bottom, in July and August; two battles, in which some casualties occurred. Battle of Reams' Station, where we lost 15 men. Siege of Petersburg; fall and winter campaign and temporary camp on the extreme left of the Army of the Potomac. Part of the regiment was discharged on expiration of term of enlistment, and part of the Seventh New York Volunteers, and Thirty-ninth New York Volunteers were incorporated with the Fifty-second.

March 27, 1865, broke camp and the last campaign began; battle at the White Oak Road, and battle at the South Side Road, with a loss of about 25 men. Pursuit of Lee's army. Battle of Farmville, Va., where we lost 2 men, the last battle in which the Fifty-second participated. Surrender of Lee's army.

Returning to Washington, the regiment encamped near Arlington Heights, Va., and marched in the Grand Review through Washington on May 25, 1865. It remained in camp until July 3d, when it broke camp for Home, Sweet Home. It was mustered out of service July 12, 1865.

The Fifty-second Regiment New York Volunteers served three years, nine months and fifteen days. Of 1,800 enlisted men and officers, whose names are on its roll of honor, it lost over 1,000 men by bullets or disease. A great number were discharged from general hospitals and returned, in all about 250 men, of whom only 10 men were of the original regiment that left New York in November, 1861.

The regiment captured two flags, but never lost one. The Fifty-second is one of the 300 fighting regiments mentioned for great bravery arid gallantry in the book known as " Regimental Losses in the War." It was a purely German organization, and maintained its position on the right of the Third Brigade, First Division, Second Corps of the Army of the Potomac, from first to last.