The 8th New York State National Guard during the Pennsylvania Campaign

8th_NYSNGThe 8th Regiment New York State National Guard was part of those from New York who came in defense of Pennsylvania during the Confederate invasion that led to the Battle of Gettysburg. Arriving at Harrisburg, on June 18th, they were quickly detailed to Bridgeport, across the Susquehanna River. They were under the command of Colonel Varian, who actually commanded not only the 8th Regiment New York State National Guard, but also the 71st Regiment New York State National Guard because he was a senior officer. The two regiments, for the most part served together during the Pennsylvania Campaign.

On June 19th, Colonel Joshua M. Varian was ordered to take the 8th New York State National Guard, along with Colonel B. L. Trafford and his 71st New York State National Guard to ride in the train cars bound for Shippensburg. They left at around 7:00pm and arrived in Shippensburg at midnight. The weary soldiers were told to stay in the train cars until daylight.

8th_NYSNG (4)After offloading or detraining, they were ordered to Scotland, just outside of Chambersburg. Upon arriving there, the 8th New York State National Guard was ordered to march into Chambersburg, leaving the 71st New York State National Guard behind to guard the Scotland Bridge. By the 21st, the 8th New York State National Guard marched into Chambersburg. Rachel Cormany wrote in her dairy “The news came in that the rebels are near here, which caused great excitement again. Soon after a regiment of the N.Y. greys came so all the excitement died away.”

Chambersburg was the county seat of FranklinCounty, and hosted the Union soldiers in gray. These soldiers were part of the New York State National Guard. The soldiers of the 8th New York S.N.G. wore gray uniforms trimmed in black on collar, cuffs and shoulder epaulettes. After reading several of the regimental histories for units such as the 71st Regiment, New York State National Guard, they were well received upon entering town. There are accounts of people lining the streets with tables and placing all kinds of food upon them for the National Guardsmen. Everything was free of charge and for the taking.

The Franklin Repository and the Valley Spirit both ran articles about how these men in gray were received by the population. They were met with “perfect ovation from the citizens. Cambric and the Union colors fluttered from almost every window, and cheer after cheer rent the air.”

8th_NYSNG (3)Stars and Stripes were raised on the flagpole, and the people cheered. “You have come to protect us, and it is our duty to make you as comfortable as we can.” Soldiers were showered by flowers. “They were received with the wildest enthusiasm. Considering that they are on our border in advance of any Pennsylvania regiments, they merit, as they will receive, the lasting gratitude of every man in the border.”

Upon entering Chambersburg and halting at the Diamond, the 8th Regiment New York State National Guard was supplied with “loads of substantials and delicacies from the hands of the fair ones; to which the brave defenders responded by many a hearty cheer for the ladies and citizens of Chambersburg. They marched to the Southern end of the town and there encamped for the night, where they were joined on Monday by the Seventy-first New York and a battery (both of which also met a cordial reception).” The units of the New York State National Guard were praised and given the title “The Venerable Greys” by the locality.

But soon, the enthusiasm quickly changed according to published newspaper accounts. A war of words in the newspapers that lasted a month after the burning of Chambersburg, a year later. At this time, it was not known which unit of the New York State National Guard had misconducted itself. But sources would later reveal it was the 8th New York S.N.G.

The Valley Spirit published an article entitled “Riot” which describes how these soldiers acted. “The editors note that some of the militia from New York who came to defend FranklinCounty have been behaving badly. Their actions included an assault on Captain Doebler on the grounds that he was a coward, which extended into a general melee.”

The article describes the scene. “A disgraceful riot occur[r]ed in the diamond, which for a while threatened to be of a serious character. Some members of one of the New York regiments, getting into a discussion with Captain Doebler, who is still suffering from the wound received at Fredericksburg, called the Captain “a d–d coward.” The Captain replied by striking the fellow over the head with his cane. The “muss” then became general, and several citizens who interfered to protect the Captain in his disabled condition, were roughly handled. Some of them were chased through the streets by the infuriated crowd, armed with pistols, sabres, guns and bayonets, with cries of “shoot them!” “hang them!” “kill them!” The disgraceful scene was brought to a close by the interference of several officers; and although some blood was spilled [sic], we are happy to record the fact that no one was seriously injured.”

On June 22nd, the right wing of the 71st New York State National Guard had made its way to Chambersburg to reinforce the 8th New York S.N.G. The two units were ordered to picket the area, and if necessary, stall the advancing Confederate force in delaying action, but not to engage them in full battle. They were to buy Harrisburg time while the fortifications were being built or improved upon. They picketed the road leading to Greencastle. The 8th New York S.N.G. had skirmished with a smaller Confederate force near Greencastle, and afterward, began barricading the road by felling tree tops across it. Wooden fence rails were also thrown across the roadway. General Joseph F. Knipe, the brigade commander arrived in Chambersburg with other militia units from Pennsylvania and he made his headquarters at the FranklinHotel located on the square.

General Knipe had issued orders for the 8th and right wing of the 71st New York S.N.G. to fall back to Scotland depot to board the cars inbound to Carlisle. The citizens of Chambersburg would soon again see their town occupied by the Confederate army. This move by General Knipe, who followed orders issued by General Darius Couch, would leave bitterness in the Chambersburg locality that would last for many months to come.

Upon the Confederate invasion that would occupy Chambersburg, the war of words began in the press. Both newspapers in Chambersburg, and in New York went on to record about why the National Guardsmen left the city to fall into Confederate hands. “when the bells were rung to notify the people that the enemy were within a few hours march of Chambersburg; when we had packed and sent off a small portion of our goods, concealing some, and grimly risking the balance; when our women had calmly made up their minds to the worst and had gotten out their linen handkerchiefs for bandages; when our able bodied men had donned the blouse, shouldered the musket and had been furnished with twenty rounds of ammunition each; when some of our best men with pick and spade aided in throwing up intrenchments; when cannon were planted in our streets; when loyal Democrats and Republicans expected a battle with the enemies of our government. At such a time, we say, the New York Tribune wrote the above, in reference to citizens of a sister State, who have been twice overrun and robbed, and almost ruined by the common enemy.”

“Delaying the advance for some days. We sent off our horses under most stringent, military orders, to prevent them falling into the hands of the enemy, leaving our over-ripe grain standing uncut. We freely assisted every colored man, woman and child to escape, and nearly every citizen with his family remained, though expecting rapine and violence. Two regiments of New York troops arrived at C—-g on a memorable Sunday, were welcomed by us all with open hands and hearts. The 8th N.Y. (we think it was) was drawn up on the Court House pavement, under the shade of the trees, were fed by our ladies young and old with the best we had, and were hailed socially as brave defenders. They were marched about a mile-and-a-half south of the town, and upon the approach of the enemy, were marched back again to our depot where they took the cars for Harrisburg, leaving their baggage, tents, etc., which our citizens the next day (copperheads and all) handed in and saved. We will not venture on details of their conduct while in our valley; but our daily prayer ever since has been; “give us defeat, grant us death, bestow upon us ignominy, but save us, good Lord, from the New York Militia!” The foe came; we could not resist, for all our fighting men were in the army, our quota being more than full; we did not submit, we were treated as enemies; with our lives in our hands, we furnished almost hourly valuable information to the government; we suffered, did not complain, but remained then and remain now loyal to our country. This is all true, and comes within our personal knowledge.”

8th_NYSNG (2)By 2:00am on June 23rd, the 8th New York S.N.G. would enter Carlisle. Preparations were made by the 8th New York S.N.G., along with the right wing of the 71st New York S.N.G. for the advancing Confederate force under the command of General Albert Jenkins. The next day, the Confederate cavalry force made its appearance. It was also realized that a much larger Confederate force was not far off in the distance. The men of the 8th New York S.N.G. slept under arms that night.

On the morning of June 25th, General Knipe issued orders for the National Guardsmen to move forward and take possession of a ridgeline known as Rocky Ridge. Two guns of Miller’s Battery were placed in the road, masked by trees. The 8th New York S.N.G. had positioned themselves at Walnut Bottom Road. As daylight gave way to darkness, orders were issued for the militia force of New Yorkers and Pennsylvanians to withdraw and retreat toward Kingston, twelve miles from Harrisburg.

At 1:00am on the 26th, the troops arrived and encamped in the woods near Kingston during a rainstorm. Many of the men were without blankets and other items as they were sent back on the train. On June 27th, General Knipe’s Brigade moved closer to Harrisburg at Oyster Point. Here they found the regiments of the 11th and 23rd New York State National Guard. They bivouacked at Oyster Point until the next morning.

On June 28th, battle lines were drawn. The 8th New York S.N.G. along with the 11th New York S.N.G. were ordered to FortWashington. Confederate artillery opened and began to shell the area. The Battle of Sporting Hill had begun. The next day, General Jenkins skirmished at Oyster Point. He held the area for a little while, then withdrew his force, and began to head toward Gettysburg.

On June 30th, General Joseph Knipe’s Brigade was reorganized. He would have in his brigade the 8th, 23rd, 52nd, 56th, 68th, and the 71st New York State National Guard Regiments, along with Miller’s Pennsylvania Battery. They were assigned to the Department of the Susquehanna under the command of General William Smith, and attached to the Army of the Potomac.

On July 1st, the 8th New York S.N.G., along with its brigade was ordered to march to Mount Holly Gap, located east of Carlisle in the SouthMountain range. Moving only eight miles to Conegogeramit Creek, it halted for the night. Cannonading was heard during the night, and the orange glow was seen as the barracks in Carlisle were burned.  

On July 2nd, the 8th New York S.N.G. moved back about two miles and encamped there for the night near the area where Confederate General Albert Jenkins had his headquarters during the advancement to Harrisburg. The next morning, the 8th New York S.N.G. moved toward Carlisle, halting at Uniontown and moving on to Kingston. Arriving there at 10:00am, the weather was very warm and many men suffered from the heat of the July sun. By 7:00pm that evening, Knipe’s Brigade had made it to Carlisle.

8th_NYSNG (1)On July 4th, the brigade began its march to Mount Holly Gap. They passed through the small town of Papertown at 10:00am and proceeded to Pine Grove Forge. Soon the landscape and beauty of SouthMountain turned into a quagmire. A severe storm had rolled in and sheets of rain fell during the late afternoon and all night. The mountain streams and roadways began to flood. All commissary wagons were halted, as they could not move across the flooded bridges. Arriving at Pine Grove Forge, the men tried to seek shelter from the storm. Their attitudes soon became demoralized by the rain.

The next day, the 8th New York S.N.G., along with its brigade marched to Bendersville, where they encamped for the night. On July 6th, they marched to Newman’s Gap, where the brigade was ordered to turn west, and then south toward the Mason Dixon Line.

On July 7th, the 8th New York S.N.G. marched to Mont Alto, where they encamped for the night. The ground had become a swamp due to the recent rains that seemed to fall everyday since July 4th. At 5:00pm on July 8th, they marched into Waynesboro, where the rear of the Confederate army had passed the day before, and were greeted by the locality. General Thomas Neill and his brigade had followed the rear of the retreating Confederate army though MontereyPass, and were in Waynesboro when the New York State National Guard marched in.  

Upon reaching Waynesboro, the New Yorkers were ordered about two and a half miles south of town, where they halted for the night. Pickets were thrown out covering all the roads leading to Greencastle, Hagerstown and MontereyPass. The New York S.N.G. remained near Waynesboro for two days.

On July 10th, the New Yorkers prepared to move out, ford the Antietam Creek, and march toward Leitersburg, Maryland, where they would operate for several days. By July 12th, they moved onward to Cavetown, Maryland. The next morning, striking tents, they moved out, marching toward Boonsboro, Maryland. On July 14th, the New Yorkers moved to Beaver Creek, where they encamped for the night.

On July 15th, the 8th New York S.N.G. and the rest of the New York National Guardsmen were ordered back to New York due to the riots that had broken out. They marched onward to Boonsboro, crossing SouthMountain at Turner’s Gap, crossing the CatoctinMountain at Braddock’s Gap, and made their way to the Monocacy Junction. From there, they would board the train and begin their journey to New York. This ended their service in Maryland and in Pennsylvania.

In 1864, the people of Chambersburg were still outraged from their treatment by the 8th New York S.N.G. One citizen even made it sound as if the Confederate force that occupied Chambersburg were the liberators of the town from those soldiers of the New York State National Guard. It was reported in the Franklin Repository in July of 1864 that the people of Chambersburg “Chastises New York newspaper editors–particularly Horace Greeley of the New York Tribune–for their “heartless” attitude toward the suffering of Chambersburg residents.” The article continues, “There is no excuse for a journal like the Tribune giving publicity to a falsehood so palpable and shameless as the above. Its editors know something of the people of Southern Pennsylvania, and its many readers in this section should have been a protection against such wanton defamation. No New York soldier ever gave the Tribune or any one else such a report of the people of Pennsylvania; but possibly some of the many thieves and skulkers who accompanied the New York regiments, may have attempted to shield their own notorious crimes by the systematic vituperation of our citizens. The press of Southern Pennsylvania has been unwilling to give the true history of the march of the New York militia, because there were doubtless reputable and brave men among them who would have suffered thereby; but we submit to the Tribune that it is time for the wholesale slanders of cowardly shoulder-hitters and wharf-rats, who straggled and plundered habitually, to find some meaner channel for endorsement and publicity.”

“It seems rather a pity that the Rebel spoilers of Maryland were not tempted to extend the sphere of their operations so as to embrace the more intensely Coppperhead districts of southern Pennsylvania. Had they gone thither and been charged for every mouthful they ate or drank (water included) as our boys were last Summer, they must have been thoroughly cured of all taste for invasion for the rest of their mortal lives.–New York Tribune.”

A month after the Burning of Chambersburg, the paper ran an article about what happened to the town, and even took time to once again bring up the matters of the previous summer. “This statement we should deem sufficient to put to rest the slanders so industriously circulated by the New York press–trumped up as an excuse for withholding their mite for our relief–because, as they allege, we failed to defend our town against a band of 200 guer[r]illas! This is a sharp dodge on the part of the New York gold speculators, and they, no doubt, felicitate themselves over it as a very clever ruse whereby they were enabled to retain a little money in their pockets! Save us, now and hereafter, from New York sympathy!–but above all things else save us from the New York Militia! Come Jenkins! Come Moseby! Come M’Causland! but against another visitation of the New York Militia, Good Lord, defend us!”

In an editorial to the Valley Spirit in August of 1864, local Chambersburg resident W.I. Cook took the time, after his thoughts on the Burning of Chambersburg to include the actions of those New York State National Guardsmen of the 8th Regiment. “Now a few words about “the gallant young men of New York” who as you allege came to our defense, and the statements of yourself and the Tribune, have only provoked an allusion to them. New York has sent many, and gallant soldiers to the field. We honor them. But the very worst specimens she has sent anywhere were here last summer. They came as if prepared for a picnic, with all the delicacies of the season in their haversacks and on their supply trains. Our people hailed them with the warmest welcome and furnished them with the best they had without cost. Everything was done under the circumstances, that a population could do to evidence appreciation of their coming and to render them comfortable. Now one [sic] of the first grand achiev[e]ments of these “gallant young men of New York” was to drag the fire apparatus of the of the [sic] town through its streets at full speed yelling like a pack of hounds. In their presence was known more profanity, more blackguardism, more theft, more drunkenness than was ever inflicted upon a community by professed Union soldiers since this war commenced. On an evening they disappeared from their camp more suddenly than base fabric of a vision, leaving all their camp equipage, individual property, sardines Scotch ale by the gross, and dainties in every variety. These “gallant young men from New York” heard of the approach of the Rebs and they skedaddled without inquiring their number of getting even a sight of the visage of one of them. The people of our town blessed the day of their deliverance and made it one of thanksgiving for they were rid of the New York troops. Jenkins came in and his command pillaged and plundered. We expected this from him. New York troops stole secretly. Jenkins’ did not, New York troops tore down property in the most ruthless manner. Jenkins’ did not. New York troops outraged women. Jenkins’ did not. When men come here for our defence we expect to find their professions truthful, not on the other hand to make us the victims of riot and blackguardism. You say the New York troops had “no very pleasing stories to tell” of this valley. No wonder if they told the truth about themselves, their statements would be too indecent for other care than those of the scoundrel and the blackguard.”


NewspaperArchivesValley of the Shadow
  • Franklin Repository, 1863-07-08
  • Valley Spirit, 1863-07-08
  • Valley Spirit, 1863-07-15
  • Franklin Repository, 1864-07-13
  • Franklin Repository, 1864-07-20
  • Valley Spirit, 1864-08-31
  • Franklin Repository, 1863-07-08
History of the 71st Regiment, N.G., N.Y., By the Veterans Association 71st Regiment, N.Y.N.G., New York City, 1919
Photos: LOC Archives

Before the Grand Charge, General George Pickett’s Division At Chambersburg

07523rDuring the month of May, 1863, Confederate General George Pickett’s Division had remained, for the most part, untested as a military force. Originally, Pickett’s Division had five brigades of infantry, one of which was from South Carolina. But during their arrival at Petersburg, Virginia, Colonel Micah Jenkins’ South Carolina Brigade was detached and ordered to stand guard around Richmond, Virginia. Soon afterward, Pickett began to march his men to Chester Station where they would encamp. After a few days, the march was resumed and upon reaching Taylorsville, Pickett’s Division would encamp there during the rest of May. As June neared, General Montgomery D. Corse’s Virginia Brigade was detached from Pickett’s Division and was ordered to remain in the area of Taylorsville. This left three brigades under General Pickett’s command, General James Kemper, General Lewis Armistead and General Richard Garnett.

During the early part of June, General Pickett ordered his men to march to Culpeper Court House, where they arrived on June 10th, and encamped in the area until June 15th. On the 17th, the division took a right at Gaines’ Cross Roads and marched east, parallel to the Blue Ridge, and encamped for the night at Piedmont. By June 19th, Pickett’s Division had reached Paris and Middleburg, Virginia. They held the line between Ashby’s Gap and Snicker’s Gap within supporting distance of General John B. Hood’s Division.

On June 20th, Pickett’s Division arrived at Snicker’s Gap and began fording the Shenandoah River at Castleman’s Ferry. The brigades of General Kemper and General Armistead would bivouac near Edgemont and Berryville. General Garnett’s brigade would ford the Shenandoah River two days later. General Garnett was kicked by the horse of an officer on General Pickett’s staff. His leg grew sore and unable to ride his horse, General Garnett was forced to ride in an ambulance.

Pickett’s Division would remain in the area of Berryville until it left camp on June 24th. While encamped there, several regiments received new clothing from the quartermaster. From Berryville, Pickett’s Division took the Charlestown Pike, but soon took a left and came out onto the Valley Pike near Darkesville. Pickett’s Division would encamp there for the night. As the men marched, it was noted that their spirits were high and they had a great deal of confidence for the pending invasion north of the Potomac River.

3a00277rOn June 25th, Pickett’s Division arrived at the Potomac River and was in Williamsport, Maryland. Although great excitement was in the air, the Confederate soldiers of Pickett’s Division received a cool reception. This iciness would gradually get worse as the Confederate soldiers crossed the Mason Dixon Line. While at Williamsport, to set and example to his men, General Pickett had a Confederate deserter executed. Marching forward to Hagerstown, General Pickett’s men were ordered to halt, allowing some of the units of General A.P. Hill’s Corps to march through at Hagerstown.

On the 26th, Pickett’s men had passed through Hagerstown and the march continued across the Mason Dixon Line. Near Greencastle, Pennsylvania Pickett’s Division encamped for the night. Now, being fully on Pennsylvania soil, Major James Dearing, commanding the artillery, recalled “Welcome they were not” referring to the gray clad Confederate soldiers. David Emmons Johnston of the 8th Virginia Infantry noted “the people defiance and vindictive mien; while not speaking out, their looks indicated that deep down in their bosoms was rancor and the wish that all the rebel hosts were dead and corralled by the devil.”

20468vOn June 27th, Pickett’s men arrived in Chambersburg. They would march through the outskirts of town and encamp a few miles north along the Carlisle Road. During the evening, the 38th Virginia Infantry was ordered to Scotland to guard the commissary wagons. Johnston recorded at the home of Colonel Alexander McClure “Some ladies appeared and volunteered to deliver a sharp, spicy address, which was responded to by the band of our regiment, with “Dixie.” The boys sang “Dixie” and “Bonnie Blue Flag,” laughed and cheered lustily.”

Many of the Confederate soldiers of Pickett’s command were reported by some of the locals as being in poor condition. A week prior to entering into Chambersburg, many of the new uniforms that were issued to the soldiers were caked with mud, grime and due to weather conditions, were faded. Often times Union and Confederate soldiers were careless, and as a result, it didn’t take long for that new uniform to loose its luster of being new. On June 30th, a report was issued by Pickett’s Division with concerns of their clothing. While many regiments were recorded as being in “good shape,” there were fewer in number that were reported as being in “bad” or poor condition.

Prior to the invasion of Pennsylvania, many of the Confederate officers were ordered to obtain a Confederate regulation uniform. Since officers were not issued a uniform, they had to purchase theirs. Because of that, officers were more careful about their uniforms. There are several accounts of how much better dressed the officers were as compared to those in which they command.

General Pickett was assigned the task of destroying the Cumberland Valley Railroad, a vital transportation system. Pickett’s men were to destroy the railroad tracks that were in the area, as well as destroy the train turntable, burning any train cars, and tearing down the railroad houses. About a mile or so of railroad was destroyed. The soldiers would pile up the ties and set them on fire. Once the fire was burning hot, the railroad track would be laid on it, and by heating the rails, the soldiers would then bend the tracks around trees.

Colonel Eppa Hunton, commanding the 8th Virginia Infantry, and temporarily commanding Garnett’s Brigade, was assigned the duties of tearing up the road, destroying the turntable, and battering down the railroad houses. He recalled “While I was engaged in this work, a man came out to me and asked me if I would spare his property, which was in one of the cars. I told him certainly, that we were not there to make war on private individuals. He was very grateful, and invited me and half a dozen others into his house to take a drink. While we were in the dining-room taking a drink, his wife came in, in a perfect fury, and said to him, “How dare you to bring rebels into my house to take a drink? I will see that you are punished for this.” But notwithstanding her rage, we all took our drink.”

Pickett’s command was also responsible for guarding the wagon train until General John Imboden’s command reached that area. This was an honorable task for Pickett’s Division. Those men who did not participate were ordered to remain in camp and drill upwards to three times a day. This was done to prevent any bands of soldiers disrespecting the citizens of Chambersburg or causing any mischief.

The 56th Virginia Infantry served as the divisional provost marshal and made their headquarters at the courthouse. They were told to enforce General Robert E. Lee’s initial orders concerning the private property and personal values owned by the people of Chambersburg. The reason for the marshal law was because many of the Confederate soldiers marching northward saw firsthand the destruction caused by the war and by the occupying soldiers of the Union army.

On June 28th, General Lee issued orders for his army to concentrate at Gettysburg. The next day, the majority of Pickett’s Division was ordered to move their camps just south of Chambersburg. By June 30th, the bulk of the Confederate army was east of Chambersburg, near Cashtown. General A.P. Hill’s Corps was east of South Mountain, General James Longstreet’s Corps was west of South Mountain and General Richard Ewell’s command was still north of Gettysburg. Pickett’s men were ordered to stay behind, complete their tasks, and wait for General Imboden and his brigade to arrive to relieve them of their duties.

Chambersburg resident Rachel Cormany wrote about the activities of Pickett’s men. On June 30th she wrote “The Rebs are still about doing all the mischief they can. They have everything ready to set fire to the warehouses & machine shops — Tore up the railroad track & burned the crossties — They have cleared out nearly every store so they cannot rob much more — Evening — Quite a number of the young folks were in the parlor this evening singing all the patriotic & popular war songs. Quite a squad of rebels gathered outside to listen & seemed much pleased with the music — “When this cruel war is over” nearly brought tears from some. They sent in a petition to have it sung again which was done. They then thanked the girls very much & left — they acted real nicely.”

On July 1st Rachel wrote “A darkey, Colonels waiter heard him say that he thought that Lee made a bad move this time–he also said that a large wagon train was hid in the woods & that they could not get out, that they are watching their chance to slip out — he said too that the officers were very uneasy — Every one can see by their actions that they do not feel quite as easy as they would like. They are chopping & at a great rate over at the R.R. all morning.”

On July 2nd, two hours past midnight, the soldiers of Pickett’s Division were awakened and within minutes they were in line on the Chambersburg Pike. Their orders were to proceed to the battlefield at Gettysburg. A distance of twenty-five miles would be covered over the dusty Chambersburg Pike.

Colonel Hunton recalled an incident as he marched past the home of Mr. Alexander K. McClure “The ladies of his family, and perhaps some of the neighbors, all came out to the gate to see the soldiers pass, and they did not taunt us with any insults, or look unkindly upon us. I was sorry to hear that later in the war his house and all of his property was destroyed, and his farm devastated.”

Rachel, awakened by the sounds of cheering Confederate soldiers, wrote in her dairy “was wakened by the yells & howls of this dirty ragged lousy trash — they made as ugly as they could — all day they have been passing.”

Pickett’s Division marched over South Mountain at Cashtown Gap. At the eastern base was the small town of Cashtown. Soon, the sound of cannon was heard in the distance and the soldiers knew a major battle was being fought. Only one day separated Pickett and his men from glory. Even while performing their duties at Chambersburg, Pickett realized that being the rearguard was an honorable place to be in the army. However, if a major battle was being fought, Pickett grew inpatient waiting for those orders to come upon the battlefield at Gettysburg.

The men and officers of the Pickett’s Division were excited about plans of going into the fight, but only if they knew what lay before them the next day. The hot July sun and dust from the road were harsh elements that Pickett’s men had to deal with during the march. One Virginian recalled “The vertical rays of the sun seemed like real lances of steel, tipped with fire.” Another soldier recalled “Steam rose in their faces and choking dust gathered in their throats and eyes.” By late evening, the majority of Pickett’s men were in the area of Gettysburg.

David Emmons Johnston of the 8th Virginia Infantry summed it up best when he later wrote “As the shades of night began to gather on this bright eve, being fatigued with the day’s march, all retired early to rest, little dreaming that upon such lovely eve, such awful morn should rise. Brave, happy souls, little do you anticipate the horrors of the next twenty-four hours! All was quiet during the night until reveille, which was sounded before day, when we fell into ranks for roll call, the last for so many gallant men, who on this eventful day were to pour out their life’s blood for freedom and the right, as God gave them to see the right, and to go to that bourne from whence no traveler returns.”

Autobiography of Eppa Hunton, The William Burd Press, Inc. Richmond, VA 1933.
Confederate Uniforms at Gettysburg, By Michael Winey, Thomas Publications, 2007
Franklin County: Diary of Rachel Cormany (1863) by the Rector and Visitors of the University of Virginia, 1998
Nothing But Glory, By Kathy Georg Harrison, Thomas Publications, 1987
Pickett Leader of a Charge, By Edward Longacre, White Mane Publishing, 1998
The Story of a Confederate Boy in the Civil War, By David E. Johnston of the 7th Virginia Infantry Regiment, Copyright, 1914
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies.

The 12th New York State National Guard During The Pennsylvania Campaign

d3314As part of Secretary Edwin Stanton’s appeal for 20,000 New York National Guardsmen to be sent to Maryland and Pennsylvania, the 12th New York State National Guard (S.N.G.) was among many regiments who answered the call. On June 20th, 1863, the 12th New York S.N.G. left New York for a third enlistment for the defense of the Union.

After boarding a vessel, they moved onward to Philadelphia where they boarded train cars bound toward Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. They arrived at Harrisburg on June 21st and was ordered to Camp Curtin, where they awaited orders. Colonel William G. Ward was the commander of the 12th New York S.N.G., and must have wondered how his regiment would fare during the Pennsylvania Campaign. In September of 1862, during the Maryland Campaign, the 12th New York S.N.G. was among those ordered to surrender to Confederate General Thomas Jackson during the Siege of Harper’s Ferry. The 12th New York S.N.G. was not officially exchanged until January of 1863, although the regiment mustered out of U.S. Service in October of 1862.

After being officially mustered into U.S. service, the 12th New York S.N.G. was placed with General William F. Smith’s First Division, General Charles Yates Second New York State National Guard Brigade, as part of the Department of the Susquehanna under the command of General Darius Couch. Their brigade commander and his staff had reported to General Couch on June 20th. Upon his arrival, his brigade was quickly reduced when the 4th New York S.N.G. was ordered to Camp Curtin for detached service. The 6th and 84th New York S.N.G. were ordered to Baltimore, Maryland. Briefly, the 71st New York S.N.G. was placed under General Yates’ command, however, they too were detached and never officially served with his brigade.
The 12th New York S.N.G., along with the 5th New York S.N.G. made up Yates’ Brigade.

PA_2001_0803_bOn June 21st, General Yates received orders to march his brigade of 1,000 soldiers to Marysville and Fenwick. The assignment was a junction where the Dauphin and Susquehanna Valleys connect. They were to guard two railroad bridges crossing the Susquehanna at that point. Early the next morning, the 12th New York S.N.G. marched across the Susquehanna River and began to take on their assignment.

The area was very important, and needed to be defended in case it would come under attack. General Yates’ recalled in his official report, “The Dauphin Valley runs parallel with the Cumberland Valley, being connected with it by several mountain gaps, the farthest of which is Sterrett’s Gap, through which the road to Carlisle passes. The enemy being then advancing toward Harrisburg, it was supposed he might make a diversion to the left, pass down the Dauphin Valley, and cross the Susquehanna. Our position, therefore, assumed a very important character, and required very great diligence in checking a movement of that kind. On arriving at the Dauphin Valley, the only force we found there consisted of about 50 or 60 men of the Invalid Corps, stationed at block -houses near the bridges.”

From the 22nd through July 7th, the soldiers performed many fatigue duties, as detachments were sent out periodically to fall trees obstructing roadways leading to their camp and dig rifle-pits. They were often aided by other New York National Guardsmen and soldiers from the Pennsylvania Militia. General Yates recorded, “We immediately commenced constructing such earthworks in front and flanks as were deemed necessary, and selected a position to make a determined stand, the left flank of our contemplated line being protected by an obstruction of felled woods, and the narrow pass along the Susquehanna being guarded by such force as could be spared for that purpose. Various detachments from time to time were sent with ax-men, to obstruct and guard the mountain gaps. During the service there they were exposed to almost incessant rains, having only their shelter tents to protect them from the inclemency of the whether. These detachments performed the duty assigned to them with alacrity and fidelity.”

On July 7th, four days after the close of the Battle of Gettysburg, the 12th New York S.N.G. was ordered to Carlisle, where they arrived by rail at midnight. Upon arriving there, the soldiers bivouacked in the town square during a massive rainstorm. Early in the morning, they were ordered to march toward Shippensburg, which was roughly fourteen miles away. Reaching Shippensburg near sunset, they continued their march for another nine miles with the moon guiding their way to Greenville, where they bivouacked for a few hours.

During their march to Shippensburg, General Yates’ Brigade received reinforcements. The 20th, 35th, and the 45th Pennsylvania Militia were attached to the brigade and reorganized as First Brigade of Second Division under the command of General Napoleon Jackson Tecumseh Dana. During the Confederate invasion, General Dana was in charge of the defenses of Philadelphia.

By July 11th, the 12th New York S.N.G. reached Chambersburg. More reinforcements were placed in the brigade. They received the 26th Pennsylvania Militia, and the 5th U.S. Artillery. Yates’ Brigade swelled to 4,300 men. Dana’s Division totaled more than 12,000 soldiers. They were encamped one mile from Chambersburg. The 12th New York S.N.G. encamped near Chambersburg until July 14th when it, along with the division, was ordered to Greencastle.

Upon reaching Greencastle, the soldiers learned of the Confederate army’s escape into Virginia. This was around the same time that the riots broke out in New York, and due to this, the 12th New York S.N.G. was ordered back to assist in putting those riots down. Between the riots, Lee’s escape into Virginia, and near expiration of their term, Yates was ordered back to New York. On July 15th, General Yates, along with the 5th and 12th New York S.N.G. units were ordered to march toward Shippensburg. From there, they would take the train back to New York where they would arrive on July 18th. Their service in Pennsylvania came to a close, and they were mustered out of U.S. service on July 20th, 1863.

Major Resources:
History and Honorary Roll of the Twelfth Regiment, Infantry, N.G.S.N.Y. by Morris Francis Dowley, 1869
Official Records of the Civil War, Series: I, Volume: XXVII Campaign: Gettysburg Campaign, Serial: 044, Pages: 0229-0231
Photo Credits:
Cowan’s Auctions, Inc: unidentified, wearing the popular chasseur uniform adopted in 1861, consisting of dark blue jacket trimmed and edged in light blue, full sky-blue trousers with Zouave-style leggings, and light blue kepi with dark blue lower band. The round two-piece plate is either “SNY” or earlier militia pattern. The Russian knots are unusual, being normally associated with mid-war artillery officers. The 12th NYSM was Federalized for service three different times during the war, surrendering en mass at Harper’s Ferry in September 1862 and later called up during the Gettysburg invasion.
The NY Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History, 12th New York Regiment, Engineers at Camp Anderson, 1861