37th New York Infantry Regiment's Civil War Historical Sketch

The Thirty-seventh regiment infantry, N. Y. S. V., or "Irish Rifles," was recruited during the months of April and May, 1861. As its synonym indicates, it was principally composed of Irish American citizens, with the exception of two companies from Cattaraugus county, a majority of whom were American born. When the books of the regiment were opened, says Surgeon O'Meagher, "more than two thousand members were enrolled, but could not be retained, in consequence, as well of the prescribed limits affixed to the military organizations, as of the difficulties experienced by the recruiting officers in obtaining the requisite authority from the State officials. Nine-tenths of the men and officers might be classed as clerks, mechanics, laborers and farmers' sons. The re-mainder --two Companies -- were mostly American born, from Cattaraugus County, with a slight sprinkling of Irish and German citizens. They were all American citizens and harmonized very well."

The organization and composition of the regiment as it appears on the records of this State, is as follows:

Co. Where recruited By whom recruited Order Date of acceptance
A New York Capt. John Burke 634 May 14, 1861
B New York Capt. James T. Maguire 633 May 14, 1861
C New York Capt. Michael Goran 632 May 14, 1861
D New York Capt. Francis J. McHugh 648 May 17, 1861
E New York Capt. John Kavanaugh 631 May 14, 1861
F New York Capt. Dominick O'Conner 647 May 17, 1861
G New York Capt. Michael Murphy 646 May 17, 1861
H Allegany, Catt. co. Capt. Luke G. Harmon 645 May 17, 1861
I Ellicottville, Catt. co. Capt. W. T. Clarke 6?? May 13, 1861
K Pulaski, N. Y. Capt. E. W. Peckham 675 May 25, 1861

At a meeting of the State Board, held on the 24th of May, it was "Resolved, that the companies commanded by the following named captains, viz.: O'Conner, Doran, Kavanaugh, McHugh, Murphy, McGuire; Bush, Harmon, Clarke and Peckham, be organized into a regiment, to be numbered No. 37, and an election of field officers ordered to be held therein."

This action was promulgated by Special Orders No. 224 (May 25, 1861), and an election for field officers held. Special Orders No. 235 confirmed the election of John H. McCunn, as Colonel; John Burke, as Lieutenant-Colonel; and Dennis C. Minton, as Major. Colonel McCunn was ordered to report for duty to General Yates, and the regiment to be held in readiness to be mustered into the service of the United States. By the same order the regiment was. ordered to be mustered into the service of the United States. The United States muster was on the 6th (Co. A) and 7th of June, by Captain S. B. Hayman, at which time the muster-in rolls give the names of officers as follows: Company A—Captain Gilbert Riordan; Captain Burke having been elected Lieutenant-Colonel.
B—Captain James T. Maguire.
C—Captain Michael Doran.
D—Captain Francis J. McHugh.
E—Captain John Kavanaugh.
F—Captain Domonick O'Connor.
G—Captain Michael Murphy.
H—Captain Luke G. Harmon.
I—Captain William T. Clarke, enrolled by D. G.
Bingham and William T. Clarke.
K—Captain James W. Johnston, enrolled at New York—Captain Peckham rejected.

The first camp of the regiment was formed at Bloomingdale, the men sleeping in a large frame building, formerly used as a German assembly and dance room. The men were supplied with straw and blankets, the proprietor furnishing them very fair rations under contract. The officers lived at home. The regiment remained here about two weeks, during which time the two Cattaraugus companies joined the command. About the 1st of June it moved to the Battery Park, where it encamped under tents and where it had excellent rations.

Before leaving for the seat of war, the regiment was supplied with uniforms, &c, and armed with United States percussion muskets, model of 1842, calibre 69. To assist in recruiting the regiment the Union Defense Committee expended $500. The expenditure by the State on account of the regiment, prior to August 15, 1861, was $38,919.98, exclusive of subsistence and quarters. Tents were issued to the regiment af Washington.

The regiment left New York for Washington on the 23d of June, via. steamer to Perth Amboy, and from thence by railroad to Philadelphia, Baltimore, and Washington, where it arrived on the 24th. It went into camp at the foot of East Capitol street, on the banks of the Anacostia, from whence it moved in the first advance on Manassas, under General McDowell, as a part of the reserve. It did not return to Washington, but remained in Virginia. Dur-ing the fall and winter it furnished fatigue parties for Fort Lyon and other fortifications, and picketed the roads; its camp being near Bailey's Cross Roads, on the old Leesburg turnpike.

The regiment was assigned temporarily to different brigades, viz : Colonel McCunn's, Colonel Andrew Porter's, Colonel Hunter's, Colonel Keyes'. On the 22d of August, it was ordered to Arlington, to relieve the Twelfth New York at Fort Albany, where it became part of Richardson's brigade, which was then composed of the Third, Fourth and Fifth Michigan, and Thirty-seventh New York. On the 3d of October, Richardson's brigade was assigned to Heintzelman's division/which subsequently became the Third brigade of the First division of the Third corps ; the division being commanded by General Hamilton, General Kearney, General Stoneman and General Birney, and the corps by General Heintzelman and General Sickles; at different times.

The regiment spent the winder of 1861-2 at " Camp Michigan." In the early part of 1862 it sent out a small detachment which attacked a strongly posted picket of the enemy, near Occoquan, killing and wounding about twenty-five of them. On the 17th of March it embarked with its division, (Hamilton's), for Fortress Monroe, where it remained for several days under the orders of General Wool. On the 3d of April it moved up the Peninsula, by the New Bridge road, and encamped on Howard's creek ; and on the 5th advanced, (the division following Gen. Porter's), to Yorktown, where on the 10th, Heintzelman's corps was posted in the front. Porter's, Hooker's and Hamilton's divisions extending from Wormley's Creek to Winnie's Mills. Throughout the siege the regiment was constantly under fire in the trenches and in the camp, and performed the most arduous and harassing labor up to the moment of the evacuation.

From Yorktown, the regiment pushed on to Williamsburg, where it fought its first general engagement. It came upon the battle-field under General Kearney, (who had succeeded General Hamilton in command of the division), and formed on the extreme left in the face of a victorious foe; repulsed his repeated efforts to turn that flank ; sustained a front and flank fire, and remained in possession of the field. The important service rendered by the regiment on this occasion was acknowledged by General Kearney.

From Williamsburg the regiment moved with its division and fought its second battle at Fair Oaks; Kearney's division out the railroad, from near Savage's Station towards the bridge. Without support, the regiment engaged a brigade and battery of the enemy, which was moving to close the avenue of retreat to bur routed troops, and held it in check until the retreat was effected, on the night of the 31st of May. It was then ordered by General Kearney to fall back, and the fact acknowledged by him that "it alone kept open the avenue of retreat."

On the 25th of June the regiment was under fire frequently, Hooker's and Kearney's divisions driving in the enemy's pickets, while the right and center was otherwise engaged. On the 30th of June, at Glendale, the enemy endeavored to pierce our lines at a point where Thomson's battery was posted. A portion of the regiment charged and drove back the enemy some two hundred yards, enabled the battery to retire, and preserved that portion of our line complete.* [* This attack commenced at about 4 P. M. and was pushed by heavy masses with the utmost determination and vigor. Captain Thomson's battery directed with great precis-ion, firing double charges, swept them back. The whole open space, two hundred paces wide, was filled with "the enemy; each repulse brought fresh troops. The third attack was only repulsed by the rapid volleys and determined charge of the Sixty-third Pennsylvania, and half of the Thirty-seventh New Vork volunteers. — McClellan's Report.] From this time until the 2d of July, when it reached Harrison's Landing, the regiment was constantly marching and fighting. At Malvern Hill it supported batteries during the day, and exhibited the highest qualities of the soldier by its coolness under fire when not actually engaged.

From the peninsula the regiment moved with its division to Yorktown and Alexandria, and from thence to Chantilly, where the gallant Kearney was killed, in the battle of September 1st. In this campaign it was under heavy artillery fire at Groveton, on the 29th of August. It reached Alexandria on the 4th of September, and for a time was stationed at Ford Ward, and at Fort Buffalo. On the 18th of October it reached Edward's Ferry ;* [* During the Maryland campaign Gen. Kearney's division was under Gen. Stoneman, and at this time was in pursuit of Stewart's cavalry.] November 13th, Waterloo; December 6th, Falmouth. It participated in the battle of Fredericksburg, (Dec. 13th), and repelled an attack of the enemy upon a battery whose support had deserted it; and assisted in serving the artillery when the gunners were disabled, and secured the highest encomiums of the General present in command.** [** The Thirty-seventh New York Volunteers was no less conspicuous. Col. Hayman was ever on the alert. His regiment was in support of a battery, and was always ready. It contributed largely in repulsing the enemy. It has won now luarels in this fight, which, added to its very many old ones, makes this organisation one of the most noted in the volunteer service. — H. G. Berry, Brig. Gen. Vols., commanding.] After the return of the army, it took up winter camp at Camp Pitcher, near Falmouth.

The regiment was engaged in the Chancellorsville campaign and lost heavily.

The regiment left the field on the 3d of June, and reached New York on the 6th, where, in common with the Thirty-eighth regiment, it was honored with an imposing reception on the 8th. On leaving the field the following order was issued by Major-General Sickles, viz:
May 28, 1863.
Special Orders No. 87:
* * " III. The Thirty-seventh New York volunteers and the Thirty-eighth New York volunteers, will move from their respective camps on June 3, 1863, and proceed to the city of New York, the place of their enrollment, where they will be mustered out of the service of the United States.
" The departure of these regiments recalls their distinguished record in the army. Their conduct always elicited the emphatic commendation of the lamented Kearney, under whom they served in the army of the Potomac, and in the army of Virginia. In more recent campaigns, Major-General Birney, commanding the division, has found frequent occasions to signalize their rapid and orderly marches, their ardor and steadiness in action, and their admirable discipline in camp. These results illustrate the high professional character of their officers, and especially of Brigadier-General J. H. Hobart Ward (formerly Col. of the Thirty-eighth New York, volunteers), of Col. S. B. Hayman, Col. Thirty-seventh New York volunteers, commanding brigade, and of Col. R. Be Trobriand, commanding Thirty-eighth New York volunteers.
"To enumerate the battles in which those gallant regiments have taken conspicuous parts, is to recapitulate nearly all the combats in which the armies in Virginia have been engaged. Among these may be mentioned Williamsburg, Fair Oaks, Glendale Malvern, Manassas, Chantilly (where Gen. Kearney fell), Fredericksburg, the Wilderness and Chancellorsville.
" Wherever valor and fidelity are passports to honor and hospitality, these twin regiments, on whose colors the shamrock and the stars are blended, will be heartily welcome. The imperial city which sent them to the army, well knows how to embrace and cherish her returning heroes; the nation—never served by braver sons—will not be unmindful of the fame of the few who survive, nor of the memory of the many whose fall attests the devotion of these citizen soldiers to our sacred cause.


The statistics of this regiment are incomplete—a portion of its records having been lost in the Peninsula campaigns. It took the field with 801 officers and men; received a large number of recruits, and also (in the fall of 1862) a considerable number of men by the consolidation with it of the One hundred and first regiment. The following is a statement of its losses' in battle, viz:

Battles Killed Wounded Missing Total
Occoquan 5 1 0 6
Williamsburg 24 71 1 96
Fair Oaks 12 72 0 84
Glendale 7 37 22 66
Malvern Hill 0 8 0 8
Groveton 0 3 0 3
Fredericksburg 7 27 0 34
Chancellorsville 4 94 137 235
TOTAL 59 313 160 532

Strength of regiment at different periods as shown by morning reports, vis:

Date Present Aggregate
August 30, 1861 723 750
November 30, 1861 709 919
January 31, 1862 723 923
August 30, 1862 420 791
November 30, 1862 530 655
January 31, 1863 681 894
April 30, 1863 734 915
May 31, 1863 449 595
Transferred to Fortieth N. Y., in May, 1863 225