94th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch
By Adjt. Charles H. Sprague*
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 Ninety-fourth Regiment, New York Volunteers, was raised in Jefferson County. Company enlistments began in October, 1861, the regimental organization being completed in January, 1862.
Its rendezvous was at Sacket's Harbor, N. Y., where it was fully equipped, armed with the Enfield rifle, and mustered into the United States service for three years, with the following named field officers: Henry K. Viele, Colonel; Calvin Littlefield, Lieutenant Colonel; William R. Hanford, Major.
The regiment left Sacket's Harbor, March 14, 1862, with about 800 men, accompanied by its own brass band and drum corps. On the following day it suffered its first loss of life, by an accident near Tivoli, on the Hudson River Railroad, where by the breaking of a rail five cars filled with men were precipitated into the river. One car was turned over, and the entire train derailed. Four members of Company G, and one unknown recruit were instantly killed, and a large number wounded. The instruments of the band were destroyed, and most of the equipments ruined.
Much depressed by this ill fortune the regiment reached New York the next day, and at the Park Barracks was supplied with new equipments. It left on March I9th, by rail, for Washington, D. C., proceeding thence to Alexandria, Va., where it was assigned to permanent garrison duty at Fort Lyon, and Colonel Viele was appointed Military Governor of Alexandria.
On May 2d, Colonel Viele unexpectedly resigned and Lieut. Col. Adrian R. Root, of the Twenty-first Regiment New York Volunteers, serving in the Army of the Potomac, was ordered by the War Department to report at Alexandria and take command as colonel. He accepted the position on condition that the Ninety-fourth should enter active service, and was ordered to join McDowell's column at Fredericksburg, then enroute to Hanover Court House to join McClellan's army.
On May 13th, the regiment left by steamer with 750 men, and arrived at Aquia Creek in a heavy rain, where Colonel Root was notified by an army quartermaster that the Ninety-fourth would remain there to unload coal from barges, relieving a regiment which would go to the front, written orders to be given in the morning. Colonel Root at once formed the regiment, and starting through the rain and mud, marched that night ten miles beyond Brooke's Station and bivouacked. May I4th, it marched to Fredericksburg, reported to General McDowell for duty, and was brigaded with the Twenty-sixth New York, Col. William H. Christian; Eighty-eighth Pennsylvania, Col. George P. McLean; Ninetieth Pennsylvania, Col. Peter Lyle, as the Second Brigade, Second Division, McDowell's Corps, Brig. Gen. James B. Ricketts, commanding the division.
On May 25th, while awaiting marching orders for Hanover Court House — only two days' march — orders were received to make a forced march to Front Royal, in the Shenandoah Valley, to intercept General Jackson, who had defeated General Banks. This ill-timed abandonment of the march to Richmond was received with dismay. We marched to Aquia Creek, where we left 50 men in hospital, and took steamer to Alexandria and cars to Manassas. On May 27th, 28th, 29th and 3Oth, we marched through Thoroughfare Gap and Manassas, leaving knapsacks, blankets, etc., at Piedmont Station, and reached Front Royal at night in a hard rain-storm, only to find that General Jackson had returned to Richmond to attack McClellan's army. This foolish march caused the Ninety-fourth a loss of over 100 men, and McDowell's Corps about 4,000 men.
June 20th, Gen. Zebulon B. Tower assumed command of the First Brigade, relieving General Ricketts, who took command of the Second Division. During Pope's campaign, the Ninety-fourth took an active part, being present at the battle of Cedar Mountain, and the engagements at Rappahannock
Bridge and Station, Thoroughfare Gap, and Gainesville. From August I4th to the 29th, Tower's Brigade served as the rear guard, while the Ninety-fourth was detailed as the final rear guard, much of the time deployed as skirmishers under fire, with such food as could be gleaned from corn fields, and with a constant loss of men killed, wounded, missing, or exhausted by hard service in the depressing heat of August.
In the second battle of Bull Run, August 29 and 30, 1862, the Ninety-fourth bore a conspicuous part. It entered the action with about 400 men, and lost 21 killed, 81 wounded, and 45 missing; total, 147. The regiment, with General Tower, held its position on Bald Hill after the rest of the brigade had retired. Several hand-to-hand encounters occurred. General Tower was severely wounded, Colonel Root was twice wounded, the second time in rescuing the regimental colors from a rush of the enemy, and was especially complimented for gallantry in the reports of Generals Ricketts and McDowell. Lieut. J. M. Woodward was mortally wounded.
In the official report of the Sixty-third Pennsylvania, the commandant of that regiment says: " I would here mention the names of two members of Company D, Ninety-fourth New York Volunteers, who asked permission to fight in our regiment, having become separated from their own. They attached themselves to Company B, of the Sixty-third Pennsylvania, and by their conduct showed themselves brave and good soldiers. The names of these two gallant fellows were First Sgt. Dexter C. Sears and Corp. Henry Sanders. Their conduct is certainly worthy of imitation." Sergeant Sears subsequently rose to the rank of captain and served during the remainder of the war with the Ninety-fourth New York. Lieutenant Colonel Littlefield succeeded to the command of the regiment, which was present at the battles of Chantilly, South Mountain and Antietam. Major Hanford resigned July 18, 1862, and Lieutenant Colonel Littlefield resigned November 1, 1862, They were succeeded by Lieut. John A. Kress, U. S. A., as lieutenant colonel, and Capt. De Witt C. Tomlinson as major.
The Ninety-fourth was transferred November 15, 1862, from the Second to the First Brigade. Colonel Root was placed in command, and recommended for promotion to the rank of brigadier general. The brigade consisted of the 16th Maine, Lieut. Col. Charles W. Tilden. 94th New York, Lieut. Col. John A. Kress. 104th New York, Col. Gilbert G. Prey. 105th New York, Col. John W. Shedd. 107th Pennsylvania, Col. Thomas F. McCoy.
At the battle of Fredericksburg, Lieut. Col. John A. Kress commanded the Ninety-fourth. On the day before the battle the regiment crossed the river and bivouacked near the Bernard Mansion. On the day of the battle, December 13, 1862, the corps moved down the river bank and went into action near Bowling Green Road. The brigade was hotly engaged, and about 2 o'clock made a determined bayonet charge on a line of breastworks at the railroad, in which affair the Ninety-fourth captured over 100 men of the Thirty-third North Carolina. In this battle the regiment lost 58, killed and wounded, while the brigade, which numbered about 1,300 men present, lost 52 killed, 369 wounded and 57 missing; total, 478.
The Fredericksburg movement and the subsequent " mud march " having ended, the latter costing as many men as a large battle, the regiment went into winter quarters at Fletcher Chapel, Va. Having become reduced in numbers it was consolidated March 17, 1863, into five companies,— A, B, C, D, and E, and the One hundred and fifth New York was transferred to it, the men thus transferred having been consolidated into five companies, which became F, G, H, I, and K of the Ninety-fourth. The field officers and some of the line officers belonging to the One hundred and fifth were mustered out upon this consolidation.
The One hundred and fifth New York was a regiment from the western part of the State — Rochester and vicinity — which had served honorably through the war up to this time. With the First Corps it had fought at Cedar Mountain, Rappahannock Station, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Bull Run, Chantilly, South Mountain, Antietam and Fredericksburg. Its colonel, Howard Carroll, was mortally wounded at Antietam, and during its short term of service in the field — from August to December, 1862,— it lost over 200 men, in killed and wounded. At the time of the consolidation it was commanded by Col. John W. Shedd.
Maj. De Witt C. Tomlinson resigned, April 13, 1863, and was succeeded by Capt. Samuel A. Moffett. Under his command the Ninety-fourth participated in the Chancellorsville campaign, moving from camp April 28th, and taking part in the engagement of the First Corps at Pollock's Mill, below Fredericksburg, April 30th. On May 2d, it marched ten miles up the Rappahannock River to United States Ford, and crossed. Colonel Root's brigade deployed and pushing back to the front several thousand fugitives, took position on the right, on the Ely's Ford Road. The First Corps recrossed the Rappahannock without loss, May 6th, the First Brigade remaining at the front, covering the withdrawal as rear guard. On May 7th, the regiment marched to White Oak Chapel, Va., and encamped there. The three brigades of the Second Division were consolidated May 20, 1863, into two brigades. The Thirteenth Massachusetts, Col. Samuel H. Leonard, joined the First Brigade, the command of which was given to Gen. Gabriel R. Paul. Col. Adrian R. Root was assigned to the command of a provisional brigade consisting of the Ninety-fourth New York, Fifteenth New York (Engineers), and Twentieth New York Militia (Eightieth N. Y. Vols.), and stationed near Belle Plain, Va., in charge of the landings at that place and Aquia Creek, and for general provost guard under the direction of army headquarters.
General Lee's northern movement having begun in June, Colonel Root received orders to send all the sick and wounded from the field hospitals, and to ship all supplies of food and forage from depots to Washington, D. C., which was promptly done. The Fifteenth New York Engineers left for home June 17th, its term of service having expired.
On June 17th, we received orders from General Hooker to evacuate Belle Plain and Aquia Creek, take shipping to Washington, and march to the mouth of the Monocacy and drive away guerillas. We arrived at Washington at 5 p. m., when an interesting incident occurred at headquarters, where Colonel Root reported in order to ascertain the shortest road. President Abraham Lincoln was present and took much interest in the movement, assisted in searching the map, and received a marching salute accompanied with hearty cheers, as he stood on the sidewalk to see the brigade pass. Reached the Monocacy, June 20th, and picketed the river and roads. On June 22d, by telegraphic order from General Hooker, we moved down the river eleven miles to Edwards Ferry. On the 25th, the Eleventh Corps crossed the Potomac into Maryland, and on the 26th, the First Corps, under Gen. John F. Reynolds, crossed.
Colonel Root received orders to close up his duties at Edwards Ferry and follow the corps with the Ninety-fourth New York. We overtook the corps on the evening of the 28th, and were assigned to the First Brigade (General Paul), Second Division (Gen. John C. Robinson).
On the morning of July 1, 1863, the Ninety-fourth New York, numbering 30 officers and 415 men present for duty, was resting near Emmitsburg, Md., at a point about eight miles from Gettysburg, Robinson's Division having bivouacked there. The two other divisions of Reynolds' (First) Corps were resting at Marsh Creek, about four miles from Gettysburg. Robinson's Division started on its march for Gettysburg at 7 a. m., and when within four miles of the town heard the cannonading which announced that the enemy had been found and encountered. Arriving on the field General Robinson halted his troops at the Lutheran Seminary, where they were engaged in throwing up breastworks when they were ordered into action on the right of the First Corps. The position occupied by Paul's Brigade was on Seminary Ridge, near the Mummasburg Road. The Ninety-fourth assisted here in repelling several strong attacks, during which a large number of Confederate prisoners were captured and several battle flags taken. Eighty-one dead Confederates were counted the following day, lying in front of the Ninety-fourth's position.
General Paul was severely wounded during the fighting at this point, a bullet passing through both eyes and blinding him. Colonel Leonard of the Thirteenth Massachusetts then took command of the brigade, but he was wounded immediately, and the command devolved on Colonel Root of the Ninety-fourth, who in turn was disabled and succeeded by others. After a long fight, which for gallantry and stubbornness was unsurpassed in the war, the First Corps was obliged to yield its ground. The Eleventh Corps, the only other body of Union infantry on the field of this the first day's battle, had already commenced to fall back, and so the Ninety-fourth with the other regiments of its division retreated through the town, and took position on Cemetery Hill. A large number of the First Corps were headed off and taken prisoners in Gettysburg. Colonel Root, who was wounded, fell into the hands of the enemy and was made prisoner.
Robinson's Division, including the Ninety-fourth, was placed on Cemetery Ridge, on the left of the Cemetery, facing the Emmitsburg Road, where it remained during the battle of the second day. On the afternoon of the third day the division moved to the support of the Second Corps at the time of Pickett's charge, but the assault was repulsed without its assistance. The losses sustained by the Ninety-fourth at Gettysburg aggregated 12 killed, 58 wounded (including those mortally so), and 175 captured or missing; total, 245. Nearly all of these casualties occurred in the battle of the first day.
In company with a large number of men from the Ninety-fourth, who had been captured, Colonel Root assisted in caring for the Union wounded who were in the enemy's hands, having been designated by the Confederates for that purpose. When Lee's army retreated, Colonel Root and his men were left behind without being paroled, and the men returned to duty with the regiment. Colonel Root, by order of the Secretary of War, was assigned to duty as commandant at Camp Parole, Annapolis, Md., to reorganize the system of paroling, furloughing and exchanging prisoners of war.
After Gettysburg, the Army of the Potomac returned to Virginia, where for the next four months it was engaged in a series of maneuvers and marches without bringing on any general engagement, and in all of which the Ninety-fourth participated. At Mine Run, Va., November 30, 1863, the regiment distinguished itself by a bold and successful dash on the enemy's picket line. General Robinson, the division commander, in mentioning this affair in his official report, says: "The enemy's pickets occupied the crest of the hill immediately in front, and it became necessary to dislodge them. This was handsomely done by the Ninety-fourth New York, under Major Moffett, which advanced to the stream, exposed to a severe musketry fire, crossed it, and, charging up the hill, drove away the Rebel pickets and took possession of the crest." The weather during the movement of the army to Mine Run was very cold and inclement, and the men who were on duty at night suffered greatly, some of the pickets freezing to death on their posts.
Returning from this fruitless campaign the Army of the Potomac marched to Culpeper, Va., where it went into winter quarters, and remained undisturbed from December, 1863, to May, 1864. The Ninety-fourth New York was ordered to Annapolis, Md., where it was attached to the Eighth Corps temporarily, and where it remained on duty at Camp Parole until May 26, 1864, when it rejoined the army at the front. In the meantime most of the regiment re-enlisted for the war and went home on furlough, and the Ninety-fourth became the Ninety-fourth Veterans. Major Moffett was promoted lieutenant colonel, December 16, 1863, to fill the vacancy caused by the resignation of Lieutenant Colonel Kress, and was succeeded as major by Capt. John McMahon.
On rejoining the Army of the Potomac the regiment was assigned to its old brigade, which was now in the Second Division of the Fifth Corps, the old First Corps having been merged in the Fifth just before the opening of the spring campaign. On June 6, 1864, the brigade became the First Brigade of Crawford's (Third) Division, Fifth Corps. It was commanded by Colonel Peter Lyle, of the Ninetieth Pennsylvania.
The Ninety-fourth New York with Lieutenant Colonel Moffett at its head was ordered into action immediately on its arrival at the front, and was engaged May 26th at the battle of the North Anna, and a few days later, at Bethesda Church. Colonel Root at this time had been promoted to the command of the District of Annapolis, Md., with rank of brigadier general by brevet, and subsequently major general by brevet.
Leaving Cold Harbor the Ninety-fourth, now in Baxter's Second Brigade, of Crawford's Division, marched to Petersburg, where it took part in the assault on the enemy's works, and was subsequently present at the mine explosion. At the battle of the Weldon Railroad, August 19, 1864, the regiment was cut off, and lost 6 officers and 164 men, mostly captured by the enemy. October 21, 1864, Maj. John McMahon was promoted to the colonelcy of the One hundred and eighty-eighth New York, and was succeeded by Capt. Henry H. Fish. The Ninety-fourth was engaged in the movement made on the Weldon Railroad, December 7-12, 1864, known as the Hicksford Raid, during which the men suffered severely from cold and exposure.
At the battle of Hatcher's Run the regiment, led by Capt. George French, suffered a loss of 40 in killed and wounded out of 221 present on the field. It was in action again at Gravelly Run, on March 31st; and at Five Forks, April 1st, sustaining a loss of 12 killed, 49 wounded, and 24 missing or captured; total, 85. It only numbered 9 officers and 214 men present for duty on March 31st. Maj. Henry H. Fish, who was in command of the Ninety-fourth in this battle, was struck on March 31st, receiving a severe scalp wound, which would have justified him in leaving the field; but he remained with the regiment and fell, while gallantly leading it in action on April 1st. Capt. George French was killed in the same battle, and among others the stalwart color bearer, Porter Crawford.
Major Fish was succeeded by Capt. Byron Parsons, April 13, 1865. The Ninety-fourth was present at Lee's surrender at Appomattox, after which it marched to Washington, D. C., under the command of its old colonel, Gen. Adrian R. Root, who had been assigned to the command of the Third Brigade, Third Division, Fifth Corps. After the Grand Review at Washington, May 23, 1865, the Ninety-fourth remained in camp, while the Army of the Potomac was being mustered out of service.
During its service the regiment lost 116 killed and mortally wounded, 352 wounded, 103 who died of disease or from exposure, and 449 missing or captured; total, 1,020. Its last act was to contribute a liberal sum of money towards the erection of a monument to the memory of the late commander of the First Corps, Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds. At the close there were present 336 officers and men.
It was mustered out of service at Ball's Cross Roads, Va., July 18, 1865, and was the last volunteer regiment in the Army of the Potomac to be mustered out. Capt. Walter T. Chester, of the Ninety-fourth, who served on the division staff, during the latter part of the war, states: " This is the reason why the Ninety-fourth New York was the last regiment in the Army of the Potomac. When the army was whittled down to a provisional division, the Ninety-fourth was in that division, and the order that constituted it, with General Ayres in command, assigned me to duty as mustering officer, and also directed me to muster it out. This I did, reserving the Ninety-fourth to the last, in order to remain in service myself, and even mustering out General Ayres and the volunteer officers of his staff before I did you, and then Captain Pond, of the regular army, mustered me out."
It is not too much to claim that the Ninety-fourth won a record for discipline, devotion to duty, and bravery in battle, unsurpassed by that of any other regiment. Having been mustered out of service the regiment proceeded to Albany, N. Y., where it was paid off and disbanded July 31, 1865. The last of the rear guard!
*Assisted by C. M. Morrison, Secy. Ninety-fourth New York Association, Sgt. Wm. Loan, Capt W. T. Chester, Lieut. C. W. Sloat, and Lieut. S. C. De Marse,