83rd New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

By Capt. George A. Hussey

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.

On July 1, 1863, the stern chase of the Army of the Potomac after that of Lee was soon to result in another trial of battle, though few of the enlisted men knew at the time that the great struggle was imminent; at least such was the belief of the men of the Ninth New York. The regiment was then encamped at Emmitsburg, Md., and at about 8 o'clock a. m. started on the march towards Gettysburg, Penn., some nine miles distant. But a few miles had been covered when the well-known sounds of battle were heard, each step almost increasing the indications. The troops hurried along the pike without special orders until near the Codori • House, when, turning into the fields to the left, they continued on towards the Seminary Building, which was reached about noon. The Ninety-seventh New York and Eleventh Pennsylvania, of the brigade, were almost immediately sent to the front, followed soon after by the remaining regiments, including the Ninth New York. Buford's Cavalry, with the First and Third Divisions of the First Corps had, up to then, sustained the brunt of the fight, and now the Second Division was placed to extend the line, in the expectation of covering the open ground to that point occupied by the Eleventh Corps, which, at this hour, 1 o'clock, was in position farther to the right and rear, on Oak Ridge.

The Ninth New York, under command of Lieut. Col. Joseph A Moesch, belonged to Baxter's Brigade of Robinson's Division, First Corps. It was first put into line of battle facing the Mummasburg road; but the appearance of several brigades of the enemy, to the left and rear, necessitated a corresponding change of front, and it was then formed on the top of Seminary Ridge, protected by a stone wall which, for a while, concealed the men from the enemy's view.

The enemy, advancing in line of battle, opened fire on the Ninth, charging “up the hill with desperation.” The men of the Ninth stood their ground like heroes, encouraged by the bravery of their lieutenant colonel, who rode along the line cheering on his men. The men displayed great coolness, reserving their fire until the enemy came within fifty yards, when a murderous volley was poured into their ranks, which sent them reeling back in utter confusion, followed closely by the brigade, whose cheers rent the air.

The enemy at this point consisted of the North Carolina Brigade of Iverson, supported by Ramseur, and to the right by O'Neal, of Ewell's Corps, whose men marched as on parade towards the boys in blue. Such a concentrated fire was poured into Iverson's troops that they became at once totally demoralized, and lost a large number of prisoners.

At this time the regiment captured 150 prisoners, besides many officers. The enemy rallied, making another stand, when an incessant fire was kept up by both sides. After being engaged nearly three hours Baxter's Brigade was relieved by the First Brigade, commanded by General Paul, of the same division.

The Ninth took into this battle 148 men, including officers. Its loss, as far as ascertained, is 2 officers killed, 2 wounded, and I missing; 4 enlisted men killed, 15 wounded, and 44 missing. Many of the missing were taken prisoners while falling back through the town, where they were hotly pursued by the enemy, who had received heavy reinforcements. Captain Quirk and Lieutenant Clark were killed, Lieutenants Jacobs and Whitney wounded, and Lieutenant Barnes was taken prisoner.

Too much praise cannot be given to both officers and men for their bravery on this occasion, which was particularly noticed by General Baxter, who took occasion to thank the regiment. General Baxter won the admiration of every member of the Ninth Regiment for his bravery and coolness on the field, and stands in their estimation among the bravest of the brave.

Upon the retreat from Seminary Ridge the remnant of Robinson's Division stopped near the position of Stewart's U. S. Battery long enough to prevent its capture; then, with those who had preceded them, they took position at Ziegler's Grove, near Cemetery Hill, at about 5 p. m., and remained there for the night.

During July 2d the Ninth, about seventy-five strong, supported a battery of the Eleventh Corps upon Cemetery Hill, going later to help patch out the line in rear of where Sickles' Third Corps was engaged, until that day's fight turned in favor of the Union army.

On July 3d, from 9 a. m. to 1 p. m., the regiment again supported a battery of the Twelfth Corps, being ordered at the latter hour into position on the right of Hays' Division, Second Corps, also this time to aid a battery. Here the handful of men were witnesses of Pickett's charge, which having failed of its object (to pierce the centre of the battle-line), the Ninth was sent out on picket duty.

During that night and the succeeding day the horrors of " after a battle " were on every side, and then came to notice the many instances of relief and kindness soldiers show towards disabled enemies, which few other wars have developed in so noticeable a degree.

Hill and Ewell are said to have believed the troops being brought to oppose them were only militia, whom they expected to soon brush from their paths. It is true a number of militia regiments were present, viz., the Second, Ninth, Fourteenth and Twentieth, from New York. Of their fighting qualities let the standard work, " Regimental Losses in the Civil War," by Col. William F. Fox, speak, which records all of them as belonging to the " Three Hundred Fighting Regiments." They, together with equally brave volunteer organizations of the army, handled Lee's veterans to their discomfiture and final retreat from Northern soil.

The Ninth Militia dates its origin from 1800, having been formed from the Second Regiment of that time; since which period it has taken part in the War of 1812, various riots in the city of New York, and the great War of the Rebellion.

Regimental orders No. 5, issued in March, 1861, directed the members to assemble at the City Armory for battalion drill. On April 19th, the regiment voted to enlist for the war. Meanwhile the firing upon Fort Sumter had taken place, and the proclamation calling for 75,000 militia was issued by President Lincoln.

Repeated efforts to obtain marching orders were at last successful, and on Monday, May 27th, the command started for the capital of the Nation. Such, though, was the mixed condition of military affairs there, it was not until twelve days after that the Government would officially accept the regiment's services. Then, on June 8th, 837 men were mustered in by Capt. William D. Whipple, U. S. A., as the Ninth New York Militia, to serve during the war, unless sooner discharged. At a later period, in 1862, the regiment was known as the Eighty-third New York Volunteers, but at no time were the men re mustered for duty under this latter designation.

During the years 1861-1864, the Ninth served mainly in the First and Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac, taking part in all the battles, engagements, marches, etc., which these corps shared in. Finally on June 7, 1864, the welcome notice came by special orders No. 156, Headquarters Fifth Corps, for the regiment to proceed to New York City to be mustered out.

On that day only 92 men were with it entitled to a discharge; but, with those away, wounded or detailed, the number was swelled to 254 by the time they reached home. As proof that these men had been " at the front," the records show that 85 of them had been wounded. The Empire City has reason to feel proud of such sacrifices for the Union.

On June 11th the gallant survivors arrived in New York, and on the 23d they were released from further military service to the United States. Capt. Henry A. Ellis, U. S. A., mustered them out, after having served three years and twenty-seven days. Many, though, continued to do duty as a part of the militia for years afterwards, and even now a few of the old veterans are still in the ranks of the regiment.