20th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

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


The Twentieth regiment infantry, N. Y. S. V., or " United Turner Rifles," was organized in the city of New York on the 16th of May, 1861. The circumstances and incidents attending its organization, unofficially, stated, were as follows :
On the 17th of April, 1861, H. R. Klerckhuhn, president of the 10New York Turn-Verein, published an appeal in the New York Staats Zeitung calling upon the Turners in the State of New York to take up arms against the rebellion. A meeting was thereupon held in the New York Turn Hall, 27-33 Orchard street, and two hundred members of the New York Turner Society signed their names, and declared their intention to join the organization in contemplation. A committee of five was appointed to organize a regiment, with the New York Turn Hall as its headquarters. The response to the appeal through the columns of the Staats Zeitung) from the towns and cities of the State, where Turner socie¬ties were in existence, as well as from Boston, Philadelphia and Newark, was prompt. Philadelphia promised 500 men, and Boston 200, but the societies in the vicinity of New York had occupied the roll. A recruiting office was established at the head-quarters (Turn Hall), and one in Williamsburgh, L. I., and on the 26th of April the organization was complete in the number (740), then allowed to an infantry organization ; the following cities and towns being principally represented, viz: New York, Williams¬burgh (one company), Newark (one company), Albany, Rochester, Poughkeepsie, Saugerties, Newburgh and Brooklyn. The com¬mittee already named applied to the German citizens of New York and Brooklyn, to furnish quarters and food to such of the recruits as could not provide for themselves, and some four hun¬dred men were thus distributed and subsisted. Subscription lists were also opened and about $3,000 obtained and applied for the same purpose, as well as a part of the moneys received from the Union Defense Committee. The several companies were mustered into the State service on the 29th and 30th of April, and on the 1st of May were moved to the Turtle Bay Brewery, in 45th street, and subsisted at the expense of the State. A committee of ladies called the "Turner Sisters," supplied under-clothing, bandages, lint, &c., sufficient for each man. The State furnished uniforms about the middle of May, which were subsequently ornamented in the field by changing the blue welts and facings to green ; the stripes and chevrons of the non-commissioned officers, and the shoulder straps of the officers were also changed to green, after the fashion of European riflemen, the regiment having been designed for a body of sharp shooters. On leaving the State the regiment was supplied with altered muskets, but these were changed to Remington rifles, with angular bayonets, at Hampton, Va. Before leaving New York the regiment was presented with:four stands of colors. The regiment was mustered into the service of the United States on the 6th of May, and left for Fortress Monroe on the 13th of June.

The official record of the organization of the regiment is as follows: 
The muster rolls show that the several companies reported for duty and were enrolled May 3d, 1861; and it also appears that on that day (Special Orders 124,) General C. A. Arthur was directed to furnish quarters and subsistence to the regiment. At a meeting of the State Military Board May 10th, 1861, on motion of the Attorney General, it was unanimously "Resolved, That the companies, commanded by the following captains, to wit: A, Lorenzo Meyer, seventy-eight men; B, Anthony Brocklyn, seventy-eight men; C, Charles Hocklertner, eighty men; D, Joseph Otto, seventy-seven men; E, Ernest O. Bernet, eighty-one-men; F, Charles Semsey, seventy-eight men; G, William Schoen, seventy-nine men; H, Wm. Van Doehn, eighty-two men; I, Henry Stumpf, eighty men, and, K, Englebert Schnepf, seventy-nine men, be ac¬cepted into a regiment to be numbered No. 20, and that an elec¬tion for field officers be ordered therein." On the 15th of May the election of Max Weber, as Colonel, Franz Weiss as Lieutenant Colonel, and Englebert Schnepf as Major, was confirmed by the Board. On the 16th of May (Special Orders 192,) the regiment was directed to be mustered into the service of the United States, which order was complied with on the 18th of May by William F. Smith, captain topographical engineers. The several companies had been previously mustered into the service of the United States, as follows: Companies C, E, F, G, H, I and K, May 6th; companies A and D, May 8th, and company B, May 9th. The field and staff was mustered for three months. There is con¬siderable confusion in the making up of the muster rolls in regard to the terms of service of the companies and even of portions of companies,*but it appears to have been generally understood, as stated by the Governor at the meeting of the State Board on the15th of August, that five companies of the regiment, "though enrolled in the State service for two" years, had been mustered into the United States service for only three months." (Assembly Doc. 15, 1862, p. 204.)

On the 31st May and 7th June 100 common and eighteen wall tents were issued to the regiment, and, on the 4th of June, 720 U. S. smooth bore percussion muskets, calibre 69. On the 13th of June the regiment left the State for Fortress Monroe. To assist in the organization of the regiment the Union Defense Com¬mittee expended $5,686. The expenditure by the State on account of the regiment, up to the 15th of August, 1861, was $45,967.16, exclusive of subsistence and rations.

The regiment embarked on board of the steamship "Alabama," at the foot of Canal street, New York, on the 13th of June, at 6 P. M. Ot the 15th of June, at 6 A.M., it disembarked at Mill Greek Bridge, about one mile from Fort Monroe, and proceeded to Tyler's Point, three miles from the Fort, where it encamped on the grounds of Ex-President John Tyler. It remained hero about one month engaged in drill; camp and guard duties, and was then ordered to occupy a position beyond Hampton Creek, outside of Hampton, as guard to the bridge that had recently been erected over Hampton Creek. On the 26th of July it was withdrawn, and the bridge partially broken up. It then encamped on Mr. Segar's farm, about one and a half miles from Fortress Monroe, and re¬mained until the fitting out of the expedition under General Butler, and Commodore Stringham, against the forts at Hatteras, N. C.

Meanwhile the following order was issued by the Adjutant General of New York, viz:
Special Orders 326, August 2, 1861- "His Excellency the President of the United States, desiring the farther services of companies A, B, C, D and E, together with the field and staff of the Twentieth regiments N. Y. S. V., and having made requisition upon the Governor of this State therefor, Colonel Weber is hereby directed, on the expiration of the terra for which such companies A, B, C, D and E, and field and staff, were mustered into the ser¬vice of the United States (the companies, August 6, and the field and staff, August 18, 1861), to report with them to the Adjutant General of the United States for duty under the order of the United States Government for the remainder of the term of enlist¬ment of such companies and field and staff into the service of the State of New York."

This order appears to have been complied with without serious difficulty, and the regiment continued in duty.

For the expedition against the Hatteras forts the regiment fur¬nished 600 men, who embarked on the 26th of August and arrived off Fort Hatteras on the 28th. The bombardment by the fleet commenced on the 29th, and the signal given for the disembarka¬tion of the troops. Only 306 men, however, could be landed, owing to the heavy surf, and this force was entirely composed of members of this regiment. It immediately formed in line of battle to storm the enemy's works, when Fort Clark surrendered. The regiment at once took possession and planted its colors on the works. At day-break, on the 30th, Fort Hatteras surrend-ered and was also occupied by the regiment. A large quantity of provisions, ammunition, ordnance stores, &c., and about 800 pris-oners, were the fruits of this expedition, aside from the import¬ance of the position captured.[See Colonel Weber's Report, Documents page 9, Vol. III, Rebellion Record.] The regiment remained in pos-session of the forts until the 25th of September (Colonel Weber in command of the land forces), and then returned to Fortress Monroe and camped at Camp Hamilton.

On the 7th of October, companies G, H, I and K were ordered to report at Newport News. While there, about fifty men under the command of Capt Jos. Hoeffling, of company K, were ordered to secure a cavalry picket of the enemy on Sinclair's farm. This duty was accomplished on the 10th of November. The picket was dispersed, its lieutenant in command killed, and two horses with equipments captured. This detachment also had an engagement with the enemy at New Market bridge on the 22d of December, in which it lost one man taken prisoner, The detachment returned to the regiment at Camp Hamilton on the 20th of February.

On the 8th of March, pending the movements of the iron-clad " Merrimac," the regiment moved to Newport News to assist in repelling any attack that might be made at that point. It returned to Camp Hamilton on the 11th.

On the 9th of May, the regiment embarked on the expedition against Norfolk under Gen. Wool. It disembarked on the 10th at Ocean View, threw out companies C and I as skirmishers, and proceeded in the advance towards Norfolk. The enemy's pickets were met at Tanners' creek, ten miles from the city, about 9 A. M., and our forces greeted with six shots from a battery posted on the opposite side of the creek. The enemy also set the bridge on fire, and not being supplied with materials to replace it, the column was compelled to take another road. The regiment continued in the advance to Norfolk, and reached the fortifications at 6 P.M. The works were found deserted and the enemy in advanced retreat. The regiment marched twenty-four miles during the day, often at " double quick," in heavy marching order, and yet only one man dropped out of the line.

The regiment moved from Norfolk to Portsmouth on the 12th, camped near the navy yard; on the 24th, it moved to Paradise creek on the Suffolk road, and, on the 3d of June, returned to Portsmouth and embarked for White House Landing. Va., where it disembarked on the 6th. It left White House on the 7th, and marched along the Richmond and West Point railroad to Savage's Station, and encamped during the night. On the 8th, it marched in a heavy rain and joined the army of the Potomac at Camp Lin¬coln, and, on the morning of the 9th reported to Brig. Gen. Davidson, commanding Third brigade, Second division, Sixth corps (Gen. Franklin's), and was assigned to position in the line of the brigade.

The regiment was actively engaged in' throwing up rifle-pits and breastworks, and in guard and picket duties, until the 28th of June, when it moved with its division to reinforce the right wing of the army. It had scarcely started, however, when the enemy's batteries opened on the camp, and it was ordered back to its breastworks. It remained under arms during the day, and in the evening was sent to the support of Ayer's battery, which had been masked on the left. The Seventh and Eighth Georgia regiments attacked this position on the morning of the 29th, but were driven back with a loss of over two hundred in killed and wounded and twenty prisoners. The regiment then returned to camp, destroyed a large quantity of equipage, stores, &c, and moved with the corps towards Savage's Station, halting frequently on the march and holding the enemy in check. About two miles beyond the station the corps formed in line of battle, and an attack by the enemy was repulsed by a heavy artillery fire from the batteries of the Second division. Here the regiment distin-guished itself by charging the enemy's lines with effect. The march was then resumed and continued during the night and White Oak swamp crossed. On the 30th of June, at 2 P. M., the camp at White Oak swamp was surprised by the enemy and the regiment exposed to a heavy fire of shot and shell. In this affair it lost two killed, ten wounded and twenty taken prisoners. The engagement was continued until nightfall, and then the line of march was taken up for Malvern Hill, where it arrived at daylight. It immediately took position in line of battle and remained under arms until daybreak of the 2d of July, when it marched to Harrison's Landing, at which place it established its camp on the 3d.

The regiment remained at Harrison's Landing until the 16th of August, when it moved with the corps towards Fortress Mon¬roe ; passed through Williamsburgh on the 18th, Yorktown on the 19th, and arrived at Fortress Monroe on the 21st; the men suffering intensely during the march from the heat and dust. At Fortress Monroe it embarked for Alexandria, August 22d, where it arrived on the 24th ; left Alexandria on the 29th, on the road to Centerville, and reached the battle-field of second Bull Run at dark ; formed in line of battle but not engaged, and, after remain¬ing there for an hour, was ordered back to Centerville. On the 1st of September it fell back to Fairfax Court House, where it arrived at 3 A. M., and was immediately ordered on picket on the Centerville road ; remained on picket until noon of the 2d, and then marched to Alexandria, twenty miles. Here it was permitted to enjoy a few hours rest.

On the evening of the 6th of September the regiment was again on the march ; passed through Alexandria, over the Long bridge, and through Washington and Georgetown ; rested in camp near Georgetown on the. 7th; passed through Rockville on the 8th; reached Barnesville on the 10th and remained in camp at that place on the 11th ; left Barnesville on the 12th, and on the 14th reached Crampton Pass. The enemy were met in force at this place and the battle of South Mountain occurred. In this action the regiment was with its brigade (then under command of Gen. Irvine), on the left of the road, and charged up the mountain and drove the enemy over the crest.

The regiment remained in line of battle on the 15th and 16th, and, on the 17th, when it moved at 6 A. M., to the battle field at Antietam. It forded Antietam creek and entered the field at 10 A. M. Here it was conspicuous in the charge of the 3d brigade, that drove the enemy back to Dunker Church, and lost nine line officers and forty-two men killed, 100 wounded and two missing. It remained in line of Battle during the day, and went on picket on the 18th. On the 19th it marched through Sharpsburg and encamped near the Potomac ; marched towards Williamsport, on the 20th, and encamped there until the 22d ; returned through Sharpsburg on the 23d and encamped near Bakersville.

On the 11th of October the regiment marched to Hyattstown where it remained until the 18th, when it moved to Clear Spring, near the Potomac, on outpost duty. It moved to Williamsport on the 29th ; to Boonesborough on the 31st; through Burketts-ville to Jettersville on the 1st of November; through Berlin and crossed the Potomac on the 3d ; camped near Union on the 4th ; near the Centerville turnpike on the 5th; to White Plains on the 6th and remained until the 9th ; the men suffering severely from cold and snow ; to New Baltimore on the 9th and remained until the 15th ; reached Catlett's Station on the 16th ; marched on the 17th and encamped in the woods ; passed Potomac creek on the 18th, and remained in camp near Aquia creek until the 4th of December; crossed the railroad at Falmouth and encamped on the 4th.

The regiment had scarcely reached camp at Falmouth before the movement against Fredericksburg commenced. On the 5th of December it moved to Belle Plains, and on the 11th to the Rappahannock. It crossed the river on the 12th; moved three miles to the left of Fredericksburg ; formed in line of battle, and supported batteries during the 12th, 13th and 14th ; was relieved on the 15th and placed in the reserve ; recrossed the Rappahan¬nock in the evening and formed in line of battle, supporting batteries covering the re-crossing of the remainder of the army; remained in camp near the Rappahannock until the 19th, and then moved to the vicinity of White Oak Chapel and built huts for winter quarters.

The regiment remained in camp until the 19th of January, en¬gaged in routine and camp duties, and moved on the 20th in the famous " mud march," from which it returned on the 22d. On the 20th of April it marched to the Rappahannock and encamped until the 29lh. Here 202 men of the regiment refused to do duty, on the ground that their term of service hud expired and were put in arrest. On the 2d of May it crossed the Rappahannock, remained in line of battle during the night, marched towards the heights in the rear of Fredericksburg on the morning of the 3d, and took position in support of batteries on the Gordonsville road. At noon on the 3d it was thrown out as skirmishers to protect the left flank of the Brigade in the charge on Salem Heights, and followed the retreat of the enemy to Mary's Heights. It went on picket at 11 P. M., and remained until daybreak on the 4th. During the night the enemy had re-occupied Salem Heights, on the left from which they opened an artillery fire on the 4th. The regiment was ordered to throw out skirmishers and hold the ground which it occupied. It immediately formed behind a bush fence and remained in line of battle until 4 P. M., when the enemy attacked in force. The regiment was formed at right angles to meet this attack, which was on the front and right flank. After the first discharge the left wing of the regiment scaled the fence, and charged the enemy and drove them back. At this moment the enemy attacked the right wing and forced it back, and the left returned to its first position. After two hours fighting with supe¬rior numbers the regiment, fell back with a loss of nine killed, forty-six wounded and ninety prisoners. It recrossed the Rappa¬hannock in the evening and encamped near the river on the 5th and 6th.

The term of service of the regiment expired on the 6th of May, and, as has been shown, it was kept in active duty until the last moment. It marched to Falmouth Station on the 7th and left for Washington ; arrived at Washington in the morning, and at Balti-more at midnight on the 8th. Here it was honored with a grand torchlight procession by the Baltimore Turners. It arrived in Philadelphia on the 9th and New York on the 10th where it was enthusiastically received by the Turners' Society and the public, and where it was mustered out of service on the 1st of June.

During its term of service the regiment received 344 recruits. Its losses were as follows:
Killed in Battle - 49
Died of wounds received in battle - 12
do accidenta1 wounds - 1
do sickness - 54
Discharged for disability - 126
do by court-martial - 1
do order of the President - 2
Resigned - 26
Mustered out - 23
Transferred - 4
Taken prisoners - 3
Deserted - 59
Total -- 360

* The following is the exhibit of the muster rolls:
Company A, thirteen men mustered for three months—remainder two years; certificate assigns the entire company "for three months."
Company B, twelve men mustered for three months—remainder two years; certificate " for two years."
Company C, wholly for three months.
Company D, sixteen men for three months—remainder two years; certificate "for two
Company E, nine men for three months—remainder two years; certificate " for three months."
Companies F, G, H, I and K were mustered for two years.