11th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

From The 3rd Annual Report Of The Bureau Of Military Statistics

ELEVENTH REGIMENT INFANTRY, N. Y. S. V. The Eleventh Regiment Infantry, N. Y. S. V., or "First Fire Zouaves"--sometimes, called the "Ellsworth Zouaves," and en¬tered on musters-rolls as, "First Regiment New York Zouaves"—-was raised in the city of New York by Col. E. Elmer Ellsworth, assisted by officers of the fire department of that city. The history of its organization may be briefly stated. E. Elmer Ells-worth, a native of New York, but at that time a resident of Chicago, a, young man of rare natural military abilities, inspired by the accounts of the organization and movements of the Zouaves in the French service, succeeded in establishing a company of Zouaves in his adopted city, and in so perfecting them in drill as to excite the admiration of men of all classes in the cities which they visited. In addition to the fact that he was the origin of the American Zouave troops he was an ardent admirer of President Lincoln, and accompanied him to Washington on his first election While there the rumors of war that had clouded the land cul-minated in actual hostilities, and, receiving the consent of the President, he hastened to New York to raise a regiment of fire¬men — a class of men that he conceived to be the best adapted from their accustomed exposure to privations, for the Zouave discipline. He arrived in New York on the 18th of April, and laid his plans before the chief of the fire department, and received his cordial consent and co-operation On the 19th called together a number of the principal men of the department; on the 20th selected his officers; on the 21st mustered one thousand men; on the 22d drilled them; on the 23d inspected them; on the 24th commenced giving them uniforms; on the 25th had them in quarters; on the 26th was waiting for supplies; on the 27th re¬ceived them, and on the 29th marched through the streets of the city en route for the steamer ''Baltic" and the seat of war, 1,200 strong; The whole work was one of enthusiasm, which no one knew better how to wield than himself.

The companies were first commanded as follows: Company A, , by .

Company Place Rank Name
A New York city Capt. John Coyle
B New York city Capt. Edward Byrnes
C New York city Capt. Michael C. Murphy
D New York city Capt. John Downey
E New York city Capt. John B. Leverich
F New York city Capt. William H. Burns
G New York city Capt. Michael Fegan
H New York city Capt. William Hackett
I New York city Capt. John Wildey
K New York city Capt. Andrew D. Purtell


Meanwhile there were certain legal forms that were necessary, and certain expenses that must be met. To supply the funds, a subscription was started and $30,768.50 subscribed, of which sum $10,000 was from the Merchants' committee. The Union defense committee came forward with an additional expenditure of $11,723; and the State authorities (up to August 15th,) with $15,542.91. They were authorized by the State Military Board, May 7th. "On motion of Attorney General—Resolved, That the ten com¬panies, commanded by the following captains, to wit: John Coyle, Edward Byrnes, Michael C. Murphy, John Downey, John B. Leverich, William H. Burns, Michael A. Fagan, William Hackett, John Wilder, and Andrew D. Purtell, comprising the regiment called by some 'Ellsworth Zouaves,' who was said to be ordered to Washington to be mustered into service by a Government officer of the United State's, and who are now in Washington without orders of the commander-in-chief, in consideration of the peculiar circumstances, be, and the same are hereby ordered to compose a regiment to be numbered No. 11, and that the election of regi¬mental officers therein heretofore permanently made, be assumed and affirmed, and the said regiment and its officers be accepted, and the commander-in-chief requested to correct the muster-rolls to correspond to the men now actually in service."

The regiment was armed, by State authority (April 28th), with Springfield muskets, pattern of 1842, calibre 69, and, by purchase, with bowie knives. It was amply supplied with uniforms, under¬clothing, havelocks, etc., received the most elegant flags, and took the field with great promise of usefulness. It arrived at Annapolis on the 2d of May, and from thence was ordered to Washington and assigned to rooms in the Capitol. Here one of its first duties was to examine the arms with which it was furnished, and this led to the discovery that there were eleven different kinds of breech¬loading, and thirteen different sized bores among a thousand rifles. This defect, was soon remedied by an exchange for Minnie rifles.

While in Washington the regiment had the opportunity to exhibit not only their peculiarities as Zouaves, but their efficiency as firemen. A heavy fire broke out near Willard's hotel, and Col. Ellsworth was applied, to for assistance. The order was given, and in a moment ten men from each company ran to the engine house, broke open, the door and rushed to the scene with the fire apparatus. Here they were speedily joined by most of their companions in arms; Col. Ellsworth took command, and, after desperate labor, succeeded in subduing the flames. For this service they were publicly thanked by General Mansfield, and rapturously applauded by the citizens.

On the 9th of May, the regiment was sent to camp (Camp Lin¬coln) in the rear of the lunatic asylum grounds; and commenced drilling. On the 24th of May, at two A; M., it embarked in boats, landed at Alexandria, and took possession of the dock, and subsequently of the city. Here Col. Ellsworth proceeded to the roof of the Marshall House and tore down the secession flag which had been flying there for some days, and, while coining down stairs with it. was shot in the breast by a rebel named Jack¬son, and immediately expired. The assassin was almost instantly shot by private Brownell of Co. A. The body of Col. Ellsworth was removed to Washington, and from thence to New York, and received every mark of respect that it was possible to bestow.

After the affair at Alexandria, the regiment took up camp (Camp Ellsworth) in the vicinity of that city, and were subse¬quently engaged in the construction of Fort Ellsworth and in holding several points in the neighborhood. Here it was brigaded with the First Michigan and Thirty-eighth New York under Gen. 0. B. Wilcox. Nothing of special interest occurred until the grand advance of July 17th was made, followed by the battle of first Bull Run. In this battle the regiment rendered efficient service in a hand-to-hand conflict with the famous Black Horse cavalry. "Ellsworth! remember Ellsworth!" was the chorused battle-cry, and at each shout horsemen would fall. For a time each man fought upon his own reponsibility, and the orders of officers were lost in the din of the conflict and the excitement of the battle, Failing with their cavalry, the enemy threw upon the regiment their finest infantry and their petted "Louisiana Zou¬aves" 'in overwhelming numbers, This fresh force was three times repulsed, and it was not until the exhaustion of two hours fighting compelled, that it yielded the field. In this action the regiment lost twenty-four killed, forty-six wounded and fifty-two missing—many of the latter taken prisoners.

The regiment was unfortunate. In the death of Col. Ellsworth it lost the embodiment of the pivotal idea in its organization. Col. Farnham, who succeeded him as well as any man could, died* soon after the Bull Run affair. With no one in command in whom they had full confidence—with the particular idea upon which they had entered the service ignored—the members, of the regi¬ment, or many of them, availed themselves of the disorganization at Bull Run to return to New York; officers resigned, and the demoralization became complete. In August, the rolls of the regiment gave the following results, viz: discharged, 31; killed, 24; wounded, 103; absent, 104; present, 606. Of the absent 20 were in hospital, and 43 in prison at Richmond. Through the intercession-of the friends of the regiment, it was permitted to return to New York for re-organization, and in September per¬formed guard duty on Bedloe's island over the prisoners captured at Hatteras inlet. From thence it was moved to a camp of instruc¬tion at Scarsdale, Westchester county, and from thence (Septem¬ber 17th, Special Orders, 394) ordered to report for duty to Gen. Wool at Fortress Monroe. For a time it appeared that the effort to re-organize would be successful. Col. Looser worked faith¬fully to that end; the captains of nearly all the companies wore changed, and every encouragement extended to the men and to recruits. The winter, of 1861-2 was spent in camp at Newport News, and was varied only by the excursions of the "Merrimac;" in the attacks upon which vessel by the shore batteries the regi¬ment rendered valuable assistance, and were highly complimented by, General Mansfield; while some of its members, who happened to be on board the ill-fated "Cumberland," fought with the last gun and brought away the fighting colors of the ship after she went down. Officers and committees in New York labored assiduously during the same period to obtain recruits. All was in vain, however—the spirit of the organization was in the grave with Ellsworth and Farnham. This fact was at last realized by friends, and early in June the regiment was returned to New York and mustered out of service.

In 1863 an effort was made to organize a regiment under the old number "Eleven." Authorization for this purpose was first issued to James C. Burke, May 18th, 1863. This authorization was revoked June 7th, 1863, and given to Henry F. O'Brien, who was required to raise 250 men by the 1st of August, 250 by the 1st of September, and 250 by the 1st of November. Recruit ing stations were established and some recruits obtained. In the July riot, however, Col. O'Brien was seized by the mob and brutally murdered. The organization seemed fated. On the 1st of October the authorization was withdrawn, and the recruits obtained transferred to the Seventeenth regiment, then re-organizing for three years.