95th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch
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 June 12, 1863, the First Army Corps, commanded by Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds left its camp near White Oak Church, Va., and started northward in pursuit of the Confederate army, which was also moving northward bent on the invasion of Pennsylvania. The Ninety-fifth New York at this time was in Cutler's (Second) Brigade, of Wadsworth's (First) Division, First Corps. The brigade roster stood as follows:
Second Brigade: Brig. Gen. Lysander Cutler
7th Indiana: Col: Ira G. Grover
76th New York: Maj. Andrew J. Grover
84th New York: Col. Edward B. Fowler
95th New York: Col. George H. Biddle
147th New York: Lieut. Col. F. C. Miller
56th Pennsylvania: Col. J. W. Hofmann.
After a series of marches and halts — the marches, long, hot, and tiresome — the division arrived on June 30, 1863, at Marsh Run, four miles south of Gettysburg, where it bivouacked that night. At a muster made that day the Ninety-fifth reported 24 officers and 239 men present for duty. This number, however, included several who might properly be classed as noncombatants, as their duties did not require them to follow the colors into action.
Leaving Marsh Creek on the morning of July 1st, at 8 o'clock, Wadsworth's Division, which had the advance of the corps that day, started for Gettysburg, Cutler's Brigade leading the column. When within about one mile of the town information was received that the enemy was approaching Gettysburg on the Chambersburg Pike, and that Buford's Division of cavalry was already engaged with the Confederate skirmishers. General Reynolds ordered Wadsworth's Division to leave the Emmitsburg Road at the Codori House and march across the fields in the direction of the firing, which then could be distinctly heard. Pushing forward at a rapid pace Cutler's Brigade struck the Chambersburg Pike about three quarters of a mile west of Gettysburg, at 10 o'clock, and went into action immediately, relieving Buford's hard-pressed cavalrymen. Wadsworth arrived none too soon, for two strong Confederate divisions — Heth's and Fender's — were already moving to the attack.
General Wadsworth placed three of Cutler's regiments on the north side of the pike, and then sent the Ninety-fifth and Eighty-fourth (Fourteenth Brooklyn) New York along the south side of the McPherson farm buildings, where the two latter regiments became engaged immediately. The three regiments on the right of the road were driven back in time by the superior force of the enemy, whereupon Colonel Fowler of, the Eighty-fourth, who was in command of the two detached regiments, ordered them to about face and fall back, a movement which was done slowly and in good order. After retiring a short distance the two regiments changed front, and attacking the successful Confederates on the flank drove them back to the line of an unfinished railroad grade, where they sought shelter in a deep cut, whose steep, rocky sides afforded no opportunity for escape after they were once penned up in it. Here several hundred Confederates, belonging to Davis's Mississippi Brigade, were captured with their colors and sent to the rear. In this brilliant affair the Eighty-fourth and Ninety-fifth New York were assisted by the Sixth Wisconsin, which formed in line on Fowler's right. Colonel Biddle, of the Ninety-fifth, was wounded early in the fight and retired from the field, the command devolving then on Maj. Edward Pye, who was ably assisted by Capt. James Creney, senior captain of the regiment.
The success at the railroad cut was only temporary, and the brigade retired to a position near the Lutheran Seminary, the men of the Ninety-fifth assisting in dragging off the field a piece of artillery from which the gunners had been driven by the enemy. The brigade reformed, and advancing again reoccupied the ground which the three right regiments occupied at the opening of the battle, and where they had delivered the opening volley of the battle of Gettysburg. Here they were outflanked for the second time, and obliged to fall back to Seminary Ridge where, by changing front, they delivered an effective fire which was of great assistance to the troops of Robinson's (Second) Division, and which contributed largely to the capture of Iverson's North Carolina Brigade.
Driven from the ground by largely superior numbers, the First and Eleventh Corps fell back through the streets of the town and occupied Cemetery Hill, Wadsworth's Division occupying a line on the adjoining slope of Culp's Hill. Cutler's Brigade threw up breastworks here, in which the Ninety-fifth remained during the succeeding two days of fighting. The regiment lost 7 killed, 62 wounded, and 46 captured or missing; total, 115, out of less than 250 engaged. Nearly all these casualties occurred in the battle of the first day. Many of the missing were killed or wounded men who were left on the field, and who fell into the hands of the enemy when the Union troops were obliged to retreat. Some of the missing were men who, with one of the officers, were captured as they fell back through the town, and whose escape was cut off by the swiftly-pursuing Confederates.
The Ninety-fifth Regiment was raised in New York City. Recruiting for it commenced in November, 1861; but an organization was not effected until March 6, 1862, when George H. Biddle, who had been active in the work of recruiting, was commissioned colonel. Seven of the companies were raised in New York City, one at Haverstraw, one at Sing Sing, and one in Westchester County. James B. Post was commissioned lieutenant colonel, and Edward Pye, major.
Arriving in Washington March 19, 1862, the regiment was placed in General Wadsworth's command and stationed at Camp Thomas. After a short stay at the Capital it crossed the Potomac into Virginia and camped at Aquia Creek. In May, 1862, it was assigned to Doubleday's Brigade, with which it served in Pope's campaign. Under command of Lieutenant Colonel Post it was under fire for the first time in the fighting near Gainesville, Va., August 28, 1862, one of the actions connected with the second battle of Manassas or Bull Run. It was also engaged the same day in fighting at Groveton, and was under fire again on the 3Oth, its losses in this battle amounting to 23 killed and wounded, and 90 missing or captured, a total of 113. Many of the missing were also killed or wounded. Doubleday's Brigade at this time was in Hatch's (First) Division, of McDowell's Corps. Upon the reorganization of the army after Pope's defeat and retirement, McDowell's Corps became the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac. Doubleday's Brigade — Second Brigade, First Division — was composed of the Seventh Indiana, Seventy-sixth and Ninety-fifth New York, and Fifty-sixth Pennsylvania.
The brigade participated in the Maryland campaign, and the regiment, commanded by Maj. Edward Pye, was engaged at the battles of South Mountain and Antietam, although its casualties in these two battles were comparatively slight. Colonel Biddle commanded the regiment at Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862, where the regiment lay under a heavy artillery fire. Casualties: 1 killed and 3 wounded. After returning from the field of Fredericksburg the entire army went into winter quarters, the First Corps encamping near Belle Plain at Aquia Creek. Upon the opening of the Chancellorsville campaign, the Ninety-fifth accompanied the First Corps on its march down the river to Pollock's Mill, a place below Fredericksburg, where on April 29-May 1, there was some sharp skirmishing and considerable artillery firing, during which two men of the regiment were wounded. On the morning of May 2d (1863), the First Corps started for Chancellorsville to join the main army, and after a hard march arrived there at dark. Taking position on Hooker's extreme right it was present, but not engaged in the great battle of May 3d. Some firing occurred along its picket line in which the Ninety-fifth lost two men wounded. Defeated and driven back from his selected position at the Chancellor House, Hooker withdrew his forces across the river, and his army returned to the abandoned camps from which they had started a few days before flushed with a confidence in success and coming victory.
Gettysburg having been fought and won, the Ninety-fifth accompanied Meade's army in pursuit of the retreating Confederates, and recrossing the Potomac shared in the numerous marches, counter-marches, and fruitless maneuvers which occupied the army during the succeeding summer and fall. Colonel Biddle and Lieutenant Colonel Post resigned in October, 1863, whereupon Maj. Edward Pye was commissioned colonel, and Capt. James Creney was made lieutenant colonel, both of which were merited, well-deserved promotions.
The regiment took part in the movement on Mine Run, November 26-De-cember 2, 1863, during which it encountered some fighting on the skirmish line, but with few casualties. After this campaign the Army of the Potomac went into winter quarters, and the men of the Ninety-fifth erected comfortable cabins at their camp near Culpeper, Va., in which they remained during the following winter and spring. The health of the regiment was good, and as the men had no severer duty than ordinary drill and dress parades, the winter passed quickly and pleasantly away. The most of the original members re-enlisted and went home on veteran furlough. Some recruits were received, and when the spring campaign opened the old regiment, although not strong numerically, was in the highest state of efficiency.
In April, 1864, the War Department ordered the organization of the First Corps discontinued and merged in that of the Fifth. The brilliant record of the. First Corps, and the gallant services which it had rendered on so many hard-fought fields deserved better treatment from the Government than this. But the orders were final, and the First Corps flag was furled.
Under this new order of things the old brigade to which the Ninety-fifth belonged became the Second Brigade — under General James C. Rice — of Wadsworth's (Fourth) Division, Fifth Corps. The corps was commanded by Maj. Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren, one of the ablest and most brilliant generals in the Army of the Potomac.
On May 4, 1864, the regiment bid good-bye to the comfortable quarters in which they had passed a pleasant winter, and started on the long and bloody campaign which, under Grant's leadership, was to know no end until victory and peace were assured. Crossing the Rapidan at Germanna Ford the men bivouacked at 3 p. m. for the night. On the following day, May 5th, the march was resumed at 7 a. m., and about noon the brigade encountered the enemy in force in the Wilderness, near Parker's Store. Companies A, E, and I, of the Ninety-fifth were deployed as skirmishers, but the Union troops being driven back, the Confederates captured all of Company E, and part of Companies A and I. The brigade suffered severely in this fight, but did not abandon its ground until left without support on either flank. It was engaged again the next day, from 6 a. m. until 3 p. m., during which the Ninety-fifth made a charge on the enemy's position, forcing the withdrawal of a battery which had proved very annoying. Captain Burn of the regiment was killed in this fighting. Later in the day General Wadsworth was killed while cheering on the brigade. Lieutenants Osburn and Woodrow, of the Ninety-fifth, were also killed in this battle.
The regiment marched to Todd's Tavern on the 7th, and on the 8th went into action at Spotsylvania, where it shared in the hard fighting each day from May 8th to May 12th. In the charge on the enemy's works, May 10th, General Rice, the brigade commander, was seriously wounded, and died after suffering amputation of his leg.
The regiment was engaged also at the battle of the North Anna, May 24th, and at Bethesda Church (near Cold Harbor) May 3O-June 2. In the fighting at the latter place Colonel Pye, of the Ninety-fifth, was mortally wounded, dying ten days later of his injuries. In his death the regiment sustained a serious loss, as he was a gallant and efficient officer. The losses of the regiment during the month of May, 1864, were:
Date. BATTLE. Killed. Wounded. Missing. Total. May 5-7, Wilderness 18 64 92 174 May 8-12, Spotsylvania 6 51 8 65 May 24-26, North Anna 1 6 1 8 May 30-31, Bethesda Church I 11 .... 12 Total 26 132 101 259 Leaving Cold Harbor, June 12th, the army marched to Petersburg, the regiment crossing the James River on the pontoons, June 16th, at 11 a. m.
The next day it arrived at Petersburg, and took position in front of the enemy's works. On the 18th it participated with the corps in the unsuccessful assault on the entrenchments, during which Lieutenant Colonel Creney, who was in command of the regiment, was severely wounded. Its casualties in this assault were 8 killed, 37 wounded, and 1 missing; total, 46; a severe loss in view of the small number carried into action. The command of the regiment now devolved on Maj. Robert W. Bard.
On August 18, 1864, the regiment marched with the Fifth Corps to the Yellow House, on the Weldon Railroad, where a severe engagement occurred on August 18th and 19th.
While holding this line on the 21st, the enemy attacked the pickets about eight in the morning, and drove in the left of the line, capturing Company E and part of Company C. Major Bard was severely wounded while engaged in withdrawing the pickets. During this affair on the picket line Priv. R. Smith, of the Ninety-fifth, a mounted orderly at brigade headquarters, succeeded in capturing 2 officers and 20 men of Hagood's (Confederate) Brigade who, having become separated from their command, were trying to make their way back through a piece of woods. For this meritorious act Private Smith was awarded a Medal of Honor by the War Department. The casualties in the Ninety-fifth at the battle of the Weldon Railroad were: 6 killed, 20 wounded, and 52 captured; total, 78.
Colonel Creney, having recovered from his wound, rejoined the regiment in the latter part of August. The regiment, now numbering only 213 muskets, was present at the battle of the Boydton Road, October 27, 1864, and took part also in the Hicksford Raid, December 7-11, 1864, where it assisted in destroying a long piece of the Weldon Railroad, burning the ties and then twisting the rails after they had become heated in the fires thus built. During the intervals between these movements and engagements the regiment lay in the trenches before Petersburg engaged in the various duties and undergoing the dangers incidental to that long, memorable siege.
On February 6 and 7, 1865, the regiment took part in the battle of Hatcher's Run, or Dabney's Mill, an engagement which was fought almost entirely by the Fifth Corps. The Ninety-fifth numbered at this time 6 officers and 247 men. Gen. Henry A. Morrow, who commanded the brigade in this battle, speaks in terms of praise in his official report of Colonel Creney, who was severely wounded in this action. The loss in the regiment was 2 killed, 33 wounded, and 2 missing; total, 37.
But the campaigns of the Ninety-fifth were drawing to a close, and on March 31, and April 1, 1865, it fought its last battle. The fighting on March 31st is known as the battle of Gravelly Run, or White Oak Road, while the action on the following day (April 1st) is known as that of Five Forks. Under command of Capt. George D. Knight the regiment was engaged both days. On the second day, at Five Forks, it took into action only 6 officers and 88 men. Its casualties in the two days' fighting were 4 killed, 63 wounded, and 9 missing; total, 76.
The regiment, in company with the Fifth Corps, pushed on in pursuit of Lee's retreating army, and was present at the final surrender at Appomattox.