County Seat Occupied By Union Soldiers In Gray, 150 Years Ago

With the threat of Confederate invasion into Maryland and Pennsylvania at hand, President Abraham Lincoln called for 100,000 men from the surrounding states to stand fast and defend the Union. However, that call fell upon deaf ears, and fearing that not enough volunteers would be raised in a timely fashion, Secretary Edwin Stanton appealed to the state of New York for 20,000 men of the National Guard (often called militia) to be sent to Maryland and Pennsylvania.  On June 15th, 1863, many of the New York State National Guard regiments answered the call. Among those who received the call first was the 7th New York State National Guard.


The New York State National Guard (S.N.G.) wore uniforms of gray. Upon being ordered out, they were ordered to wear the fatigue uniform which consisted of a cadet gray jacket with black trim on the epaulettes, cuffs and collar. Their kepi was cadet gray with a black band and black cord on the crown. Their trousers were also cadet gray and black stripes running the length of the legs. They were issued accoutrements in black leather, as well as a leather haversack for rations and a leather knapsack.

When the 7th New York S.N.G. left New York, they were first ordered to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Upon arriving at Philadelphia on June 17th, the 7th New York S.N.G. was quickly ordered, without delay, to Baltimore, Maryland. The soldiers boarded a train and left for Baltimore. Arriving there, they were ordered to Fort Federal Hill and Fort McHenry.

On June 18th, the 7th New York S.N.G. was attached to the Middle Department, under the command of General Robert Schenck, as part of Second Brigade commanded by General William Morris. The next day the companies of the 7th New York S.N.G. began taking on their assignments. Some men proceeded to Fort McHenry while others proceeded to guard Confederate prisoners taken by General Grant out west in transit to Fort Delaware, New Jersey.

With rumors of a Confederate attack on Baltimore, the 7th New York S.N.G. had no time to relax. Companies of men were constantly on picket duty, preparing for the rumored attack, which never happened as the Battle of Gettysburg had began on July 1st.

By July 4th, the Battle of Gettysburg was over and the Confederate army began its retreat toward the Potomac River. Heavy rains set in during the afternoon and caused roadways to become a quagmire. The next day, the 7th New York S.N.G. was ordered to proceed to Frederick, Maryland without delay. They would be assigned to the Provisional Brigade, under the command of General Henry Briggs, part of General William French’s command. Light marching orders were issued which meant that the men had to cook and prepare three days’ rations, carry only the essential items such as one blanket, overcoat, canteen, and haversack. Sixty rounds of ammunition were also issued. The rest of their belongings were ordered into the wagons for transport.

Monocacy JunctionAs other regiments arrived at Fort Federal Hill, the 7th New York S.N.G. began boarding the train cars for Frederick city. Arriving at Monocacy Junction, their camp would be laid out where they would bivouac for the duration of their assignment. The men of the 7th New York S.N.G. enjoyed the rolling hills of the area and were greeted by much enthusiasm. Due to the recent storms, many of the men made crude camps, some in the cars with straw covering the pallets, some slept along the roadside at the junction.

The 7th New York S.N.G. would fully concentrate at Frederick on July 7th and assume picketing duties of the various roads leading to the city. It was noted that Frederick city was a very busy place. Wagons of supplies were moving through, and several hundred Confederate prisoners were being escorted through the streets. However, outside of the city line it was a different story. Large fields of previous encampments were completely deserted. All that remained was the torn up ground and ruts. Hospitals were set up in the city for the wounded pouring in from Gettysburg.

As several of the guardsmen picketed the Emmitsburg Pike, they witnessed thousands of Union soldiers marching into the city, in pursuit of the Confederate army, a repeating scene that would take several days. Union General William French, who was in command of a force at Frederick received word that he was to pull most of his troops out and take command of the Union Third Corps since their commander General Daniel Sickles was wounded at Gettysburg.

Lefferts_Mashall_Col_7thNYSMOn July 8th, General William French turned over the city of Frederick to Colonel Marshall Lefferts. Colonel Lefferts was the commanding Colonel of the 7th New York S.N.G. Lieutenant Colonel James Price assumed command of the 7th New York S.N.G. and ordered the 7th New York S.N.G. to picket the various roadways that led into Frederick. These roads were the Emmitsburg Road, Hagerstown Road, Harper’s Ferry Road as well as the important Moncacy Junction, which was serving as the major supply route for the Union army. Colonel Lefferts continued to allow Major Henry Cole, commanding Cole’s Cavalry, to act as the Provost Marshall.

As more Union veterans marched through the streets of Frederick enroute to intercept Lee’s Army near Hagerstown, they noted the appearance of the 7th New York S.N.G. One soldier recalled some heckling and taunts as they marched passed the National Guardsmen. “Don’t you want to join the vets?” “Good time to break you in.” or, “Where’s your umbrella? Too bad for you fellers to stand out and get all wet. We allers goes in when it rains. Ten times as easy to be a vet, as ‘tis to be a militiaman.”

While the soldiers of the 7th New York S.N.G. were stationed in Frederick, many of the soldiers dubbed their camp as “Camp Misery.” With all the heavy rains that came into the area, the camps themselves became unbearable. No tents to shelter those from the torrential rains left many creating their own ways of keeping dry or trying to stay dry. One of the pleasures of Camp Misery was the hanging of a spy named Richardson. His body hung in camp for three days before official orders were issued by Colonel Lefferts to have the body removed and buried.

The supply wagons of the 7th New York S.N.G. still had not caught up with them since they departed Fort Federal Hill. Once the Union army was gone, food and supplies provided by the city’s residents became more plentiful.

With hundreds of troops moving through, the fields had been cut up. Regular army rations were hard to obtain as long as the Army of the Potomac was marching through. Food, milk and egg prices from the local stores were at famine prices. Tempers were at a boiling point with the Union soldiers in gray.

By July 11th, the 7th New York S.N.G. was still stationed at Frederick guarding the roads as well as Monocacy Junction. While on leisure, some of the National Guardsmen took the time to target practice, fish, or bathe, although much depended on the weather conditions. Inspector General Edmund Schriver arrived from Washington to take command of Frederick and Colonel Lefferts was relieved to rejoin his regiment.

On July 14th, the 7th New York S.N.G., along with several regiments of New Yorkers were ordered to Baltimore to assist in putting down the New York Draft Riots. The National Guardsmen would enter New York by 1:00 am on July 16th, ending their service in Maryland. By July 21st, the 7th New York S.N.G. was mustered out of US service.

For a brief period in Frederick’s Civil War history, New York’s most prominent and elite soldiers guarded, and if necessary, were ready to defend Frederick. Their exploits may not be as exciting as the Battle of Gettysburg, but they do deserve credit in protecting the city and its people. This portion of the campaigns in Maryland and Pennsylvania would be the last time the 7th New York S.N.G. and other regiments of the National Guard saw service during the Civil War.

History of the Second Company of the Seventh Regiment (National Guard) N. Y. S. Militia, By J. G. Gregory, 1864
History of the Seventh Regiment, National Guard, State of New York, During the War of the Rebellion, By William Swinton, 1870
Manual of the Seventh Regiment, National Guard, S.N.Y., Board of officers, 1868
Standing Orders of the Seventh Regiment, National Guard, for the Regulation and Government of the Regiment in the Field Or in Quarters, Van Nostrand, 1861
The War of the Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies: Series 1, vol 27, Part 2 (Gettysburg Campaign)
Photo credit: The NY MilitaryMuseum and Veterans Research Center, New York State Division of Military and Naval Affairs: Military History, Colonel Marshall Lefferts