Uniforms of the Twenty-Second New York National Guard

The dress uniform
The dress uniform

No military organization has ever been formed in any city which contained, in the first instance, so many well-known and influential men as those who composed the Union Grays. Through their influence, and under the prestige which was justly attached to the name of Colonel Monroe, the ranks of the regiment were rapidly filled up, in spite of the fact that the volunteer regiments in the field were absorbing almost everybody having military inclinations. It soon numbered over 400 men.

They adopted as their uniform a single-breasted frock coat, cut in the French style, with the skirt reaching to the knee, made of gray cloth, with red collar and cuffs, trimmed with white piping. The trousers were of gray, with a red stripe edged with white piping down the sides; the cap was a gray kepi, with red band and top, each edged with white piping. Yellow leathern leggins were afterwards adopted, which were greatly liked in the field, excluding the dust and keeping the trousers free from mud. The uniform and equipments were paid for by the men themselves. No more tasteful or trim-looking uniform has ever been seen in the City of New York than this, and the wearers were soon known as the Strawberry Grays. They also decided upon a gray fatigue jacket, but it was never procured.

Application was made at once to the State and Federal Government for arms for the new organization, but none were to be had, the authorities being at their wits’ end to supply the troops then at the front with guns. So great was the demand that Belgian guns of antiquated pattern, which were as apt to go off at half-cock as not, were being imported at high prices in order to arm the volunteers. Under these circumstances, the Union Grays purchased and imported Enfield rifles from England for their own use. These, unlike many of the guns which the Government was purchasing, were well-made and serviceable weapons. They were provided with sword bayonets, which presented a very formidable appearance, but which subsequent experience in the field led the men to think were inferior to the triangular bayonet. The average opinion was that they made the “rifles” “muzzle-heavy,” and were useless, even for chopping wood.

Unlike American rifles, the parts of which are made interchangeable, those of each of the Enfields used by the Twenty-second were different from the other. This difference was too slight to be detected by the eye, but it was sufficient to constitute an intense annoyance in service. If a man did not pick up his own gun, which was frequently the case on duty, his bayonet would not fit, and when the guns were taken apart to be cleaned, if the parts belonging to two guns were mixed, it was a most aggravating task to separate them. The sergeants’ rifles were much shorter than the others.

History of the Twenty-Second Regiment of the National Guard of the State of New York, General George Wingate, 1896
Photos of troops in field at Harper’s Ferry, LOC Archives


The Maryland Campaign Sesquicentennial

After their stunning victory at Second Manassas in August of 1862, Confederate General Robert E. Lee began his movements toward the north. After attempting to cut the Union Army of Virginia’s retreat into Washington at Chantilly on September 1st, the Confederate army pushed toward Leesburg. Near Leesburg, Virginia on September 2nd, the advance cavalry units of Lee’s army skirmished with Union cavalry. This skirmish wounded several Emmitsburg residents serving in Cole’s Cavalry, a Union cavalry command.

Once Leesburg was secured, Lee’s army began to occupy the town. General Robert E. Lee had a huge decision to make. He could carry the war into the north, and by doing so, the Confederate army could sustain themselves from the rich agriculture produce of the northern farms as well as gain additional supplies. This would also relieve the civilian population in the south, including the farmers of the Shenandoah Valley, giving them time to harvest their crops.

Politically, the war had grown unpopular with the northern people and with elections coming, Lee could take advantage of the lack of confidence in their elected officials. As several Confederate officers from Maryland told Lee, he could recruit Maryland civilians for his army, replenishing his ranks from the hard summer of fighting in Virginia. If Lee could win a major victory in the north, the Confederate government may gain international aide and recognition from European countries such as England and France. In order for all of Lee’s plans to come together, it was important for his army to be viewed by the Maryland residents as the “Liberators” and not as the “Invaders.”

On September 4th, with blessings from Confederate President Jefferson Davis, Lee’s army began to ford the Potomac River at White’s Ford, with fife and drums playing to the beat of Maryland My Maryland. By September 7th, the Confederate army was on the Maryland banks of the Potomac River with Frederick as their concentration point. The advance units of the Army of Northern Virginia had arrived in Frederick as early as September 6th.

In the wake of the Confederate campaign in Maryland, hundreds of civilians fled, blocking the roads leading to Emmitsburg, and Baltimore. Rumors spread from town to town about the Confederate invasion. Once fully concentrated in Frederick, Lee’s army received a cool reception. Geographically, Frederick was a southern city, but when it came to loyalties, the majority of its citizens didn’t want to see the Union dissolved.

Hundreds of men flocked toward Frederick with the intention of enlisting, but once they caught a glimpse of the condition of Lee’s army, they were quickly dissuaded.  One such instance involved more than 87 men from Emmitsburg who traveled to Frederick to enlist, but seeing how ragged and dirty the Confederate army was, they returned to Emmitsburg. Lee received less than one hundred recruits for his army.

While Lee was in Frederick, General George McClellan was given the opportunity to reform, re-supply, and reorganize his Army of the Potomac, Burnside’s army that came in from North Carolina, the shattered remains of the Army of Virginia and the Kanawha Division. Soon McClellan began marching out of Washington to meet the Confederate army in Maryland.

On September 9th, realizing that the garrison at Martinsburg and Harper’s Ferry threatened his line of communications, as well as his supply line, General Lee issued Special Orders No. 191. These orders divided his army into several sections. General Stonewall Jackson and his command, supported by the divisions of Lafayette McLaws, Richard Anderson and John Walker, were to besiege Harper’s Ferry. Lee and Longstreet would move to Boonsboro and Hagerstown. General Daniel Hill was to guard the rear of the Confederate army while General JEB Stuart’s cavalry brought up stragglers. Once those garrisons fell, these commands were to reunite with Lee in Boonsboro or Hagerstown.

By September 10th, Lee’s army was put into motion. By September 12th, the Confederate rearguard skirmished in the streets of Frederick with the leading elements of the Union army. That night, Union cavalry commander General Alfred Pleasanton, was ordered to send out his cavalry division to scour and locate the rear of the Confederate army. As a result, at dawn on September 13th, the sounds of battle were heard from the CatoctinMountain at Braddock’s Gap, and by the afternoon, JeffersonPass also became a battleground. 

As the cavalry battles were occurring, a copy of the Lee’s orders came into General McClellan’s possession. Between the cavalry battles, reports of Confederate activity, and the Lee’s lost orders, General McClellan had everything he needed to destroy the Confederate army. But McClellan hesitated, and to make matters worse, the Confederate activity near Harper’s Ferry was finally reported. But McClellan had a simple plan; attack and destroy each element of the Confederate army before it has a chance to reunite.

As September 14th dawned, the advance units of the Union army moved closer to SouthMountain and by nine in the morning, the Battles of South Mountain erupted, starting at Fox’s Gap. The fighting was fierce, and by late afternoon SouthMountain became a battleground, with fighting taking place at Frostown, Turner’s, Fox’s, and Crampton’s Gaps and BrownsvillePass. Over 6,000 soldiers fell on the battlefields at SouthMountain. The Battles of South Mountain was the turning point both socially and politically. McClellan’s army had gone up against a great Confederate army, causing Lee, who was on the offensive, to take up a defensive strategy. In its aftermath, Lee was forced to withdraw his Confederates off of SouthMountain and concentrate at Sharpsburg to wait for news on Harper’s Ferry.

With Harper’s Ferry under siege by Jackson’s force, a portion of the Union army attacking Crampton’s Gap had the best chance of relieving the besieged garrison. Their mission was to break through Crampton’s Gap, occupy PleasantValley via Rohorsville, and split Lee’s army in half. From there they could help relieve the garrison. But as the sun set on September 14th, the garrison at Harper’s Ferry realized that no aide was coming to their relief. That night, the cavalry escaped from Harper’s Ferry without conflict from the Confederates. The next day, the garrison of 12,500 soldiers was forced to surrender and Harper’s Ferry fell.

With this news, General Lee decided to remain at Sharpsburg and confront the Union army. By the evening of September 16th, the first shots were fired at Antietam. The next day, the bloodiest single day of the American Civil War was fought with more than 23,000 casualties of wounded, missing, and killed in action. Although none of the soldiers fighting in the Battle of Antietam would realize it that day, the Battle of Antietam would change the war politically, laying the foundation for the Emancipation of the African American people held in the bondage of slavery. 

On the 18th, the armies still held their positions. Lee decided to remove his army from the battlefield at Antietam and ford the Potomac River at Shepherdstown. By September 19th and the 20th, the Battle of Shepherdstown forced Lee to give up his first campaign into the north.

For the last year, I have been writing articles relating to the Maryland Campaign. September of 2012, marks a very important month in American history. Not just militarily, but socially, and politically as well. It is important that we commemorate the events that unfolded during the first major Confederate offensive of the north. Several historical sites locally, statewide, and nationally will commemorate the Maryland Campaign. I encourage you, the reader, to participate in this once in a lifetime opportunity to commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Maryland Campaign and honor those brave soldiers who gave their lives to protect and defend Maryland.

In honor of the sesquicentennial, Maryland Public Television will air a new documentary on September 5th, telling the story about the importance of the Maryland Campaign and how it changed the course of the war. I had the great opportunity to participate and was one of sixteen historians to be interviewed for this documentary.

The Fight at Quebec Schoolhouse, A Consequence of the Braddock’s Gap Skirmish

As portions of Confederate General Wade Hampton’s Brigade withdrew through the streets of Middletown during the late afternoon of September 13th, 1862, the skirmish that developed at Braddock’s Gap was finally dying down. General JEB Stuart ordered General Wade Hampton to take the cavalry supply wagons to Burkittsville as quickly as possible, which was about five miles away to the south. From there, General Hampton could join up with Colonel Thomas Munford, who was guarding the approach to Crampton’s Gap. General JEB Stuart himself, along with Hart’s battery, and the Jeff Davis Legion made their way to Turner’s Gap upon South Mountain where General Daniel H. Hill had an infantry brigade deployed, ready to defend the gap.

Upon arriving at Turner’s Gap, General Stuart’s cavalry commanded the National Road forcing Colonel Alfred Colquitt’s brigade to move along side of the road. It was reported that a few brigades of Union infantry had broken through the Catoctin Mountain and were situated in the Middletown Valley. From there Stuart continued onward toward Boonsboro. What Stuart didn’t know was that the rest of Union General Jesse Reno’s Ninth Corps, soon followed by General Joseph Hooker’s First Corps, were in route to Middletown.

After the Confederate cavalry had withdrew from Middletown, portions of Union Colonel John F. Farnsworth’s cavalry brigade had pushed through Middletown to the Catoctin Creek, where the rear of Stuart’s forces had set fire to the covered bridge. It looked as if the tired Union troopers were finally going to have a rest after a hard days’ fight. While the pursuit was still going strong through Middletown, several citizens of Middletown informed Major William Medill of the Eighth Illinois Cavalry about a Confederate wagon train that had just left town moments before their arrival.

As Major Medill tried gathering troops to go after the baggage train, time ticked on and the wagon train advanced further out of their grasp. Major Medill managed to get two companies, A & G of the Eighth Illinois, and two companies, E & F of the Third Indiana, totaling about 230 troopers. William Pickerill of the Third Indiana recalled: “As the cavalry dashed into Middletown two companies of the Eighth Illinois and two companies of the Third Indiana, E and F, were detached and directed to pursue a rebel wagon train, which the citizens of the town told us had gone southward down the valley.”

Finding the wagons wasn’t going to be an easy task. As stated in my article “The Union Soldier during the Maryland Campaign,” weather conditions proved extreme from the heat on the march toward Frederick to a cold front that had pushed through producing rain. With the ground still being damp, no dust would be kicked up by the wagons; therefore their location could not be seen in the distance.

William Pickerill described the Middletown Valley as his unit moved on toward Burkittsville. “We were in the midst of its most fertile farms. Fields of ripening, waving corn were on every hand. Orchards were the background of many a cottage with its shrubbery-bedecked lawn. In the distance were the mountain crests wreathed in the blue haze of a perfect Autumn day’s loveliest sunshine.”

As the Union troopers pressed on, General Hampton found a road paralleling the main the route to Burkittsville. Hampton later recalled: “On the road to this place I discovered, on a road parallel to the one on which we were, a regiment of Yankee cavalry.” The Union cavalry had been spotted. William Pickerill also remembered seeing the wagon train as well. He later wrote “This detachment after a hot pursuit came in sight of the wagon train as it was slowly winding its way up a mountain road, but in its rear was a battery of brass guns and enough rebel cavalry to have swallowed the pursuing force.” These bronze guns were that of Chew’s Battery guarding the rear of the wagon train.

Pickerill continued “The detachment was satisfied with observation and decided that it did not want that wagon train anyhow, and started to return to the command which it had left at Middletown by a short cut down a winding stony ravine, hemmed in on either side by a very crooked worm fence, so that this particular route answered for the channel of a stream and a country road at the same time.”

What the Union cavalry did not realize was that General Hampton detached Cobb’s Legion of cavalry commanded by Colonel Pierce M.B. Young to pursue them. At a little schoolhouse called Quebec, Saturday classes were in session. The children and the teacher would soon witness something they would never forget.

Cobb’s Legion had taken cover in the brush to conceal themselves along the main road to Burkittsville, lying in wait. William N. Pickerill recalled “Quebeck schoolhouse stood at the head of this ravine, and just as Company F of the Third Indiana, the rear company of the detachment, had entered the ravine Cobb’s Legion of rebel cavalry, commanded by Col. P.M.B. Young, dashed down the mountainside past the schoolhouse, charging us with sabers and pistols, and for a few minutes a desperate little cavalry battle ensued.”

As the Union cavalry appeared, Colonel Young’s men waited. As soon as the Union soldiers had passed, Cobb’s Legion charged after and surprised them. After wheeling, Young had come in from the south while Captain Gilbert Wright’s company attacked from the north. Hampton later wrote: “I directed Lieut. Col. Young to charge this regiment. The order was carried out in gallant style.” The Union cavalry responded firing into the Confederate horsemen. Company F of the Third Indiana, the last unit in the column was trapped in a ditch when Cobb’s Legion charged.

Pickerill recalled “The column halted and fired an oblique volley into the charging rebels and then the clash came and Yankees and rebels, horsed and unhorsed, mingled, indiscriminately shooting at each other and using their sabers in the same reckless manner, until the men at the head of the column tore down the fence on the side of the ravine next to the attacking force and went at them in such splendid style.”

During the first few seconds of the fight, over two hundred carbines were discharged and the scene became wild as men fought desperately to get out with their lives, while Young’s men screamed for their surrender. Captain Gilbert Wright of Cobb’s Legion recalled “Give ’em hell, boys” as he succumbed to injury. The legion crossed sabers with the Union cavalry, and as several accounts state sabers were used rather freely. The accounts of saber wounds are listed on several of the muster rolls of those injured. Some of the troopers were killed when sabers smashed the skulls of their opponents.

Fearing that he might be separated from Hampton’s and Munford’s forces, Cobb’s Legion called off the engagement and pulled back leaving their dead and wounded in the hands of the Union cavalry. Hampton stated that he had four killed and nine wounded in the fight at Quebec Schoolhouse. Among the Confederate wounded was Colonel Young. Hampton also wrote that the Union casualties were thirty killed and wounded, and five prisoners taken.

After the fight, the Union cavalry moved back to Middletown, bivouacking under the stars. The Union cavalry had a hard day of fighting both at Braddock’s Gap and Quebec Schoolhouse. The Union cavalry had secured the way for the Union infantry and by morning, the sounds of cannon and infantry musketry would echo throughout the Middletown Valley, as the Union infantry advanced on South Mountain. This would change the war both socially and politically, and force Lee to issue orders for his army to concentrate at Sharpsburg.