New York Monuments Commission for the Battlefields of Gettysburg and Chattanooga.
Final Report on the Battlefield of Gettysburg, Vol. II.
ALBANY: J. B. Lyon Company, Printers.
86TH?>NEW YORK INFANTRY.
[Placement:] On the wooded ridge between the Devil’s Den and the Wheatfield: line of Ward’s Brigade, where the battle opened on the second day.
(Front.) 86th NEW YORK
INFANTRY, 2d BRIG. 1st DIV.
(On lower border of bas relief)
I Yield Him Unto His Country And His God.
Held This Position
The Afternoon Of
July 2, 1863.
DEDICATION OF MONUMENT. 86th REGIMENT INFANTRY — “STEUBEN RANGERS."
July 2, 1888. Address Of Charles H. Mcmaster.
Veterans And Fellow Citizens:
Three battles are most famous in the world's history,— Marathon, Waterloo, and Gettysburg. The result of each was the elevation of mankind and the advancement of civilization.
The advance of the Greeks against the superior numbers of their enemy, the ascent of Mont St. Jean by the old guard of Napoleon, and the stand made by the Third Corps upon this ground, will remain .conspicuous examples of sublime courage during all time. These struggles excite our interest on account of the courage and skill displayed by the combatants, and they are even more important for the direction which they have given to human affairs.
The overthrow of the Persians on the plain of Marathon preserved Greece and made possible the perfection of those works in literature and art which to this day excite the widest interest and study, and stand as models of beauty in every land.
The disaster to Napoleon's army at Waterloo destroyed the overshadowing power of the Conqueror of Europe, and paved the way for more liberal policies. The victory of Meade and his army upon this field established a nation. Seminary Ridge, Cemetery Hill, Culp's Hill, Little Round Top, the Devil's Den, this wood, the Wheatfield and the Peach Orchard, are household words which to-day thrill every American heart. They may well form the studio of young men who are being drilled in the art of war. But the chief significance of the whole battle rests in the issues which were here determined.
It has been remarked that the same principles underlie the ballot-box and the battlefield. The American ballot is the expression of the highest form of human liberty yet attained. The same principles underlie it which forced the fighting on the battlefields of the DutchRepublic, and during the civil war in England.
There is an ancient American fiction that "all men are created equal." Among savage tribes this statement may be literally true, but civilized man is born under the law of the land. And a very large majority of the human race created since the world began have been born in bondage, the subjects of an absolute monarch, holding their fives and fortunes, not in their own hands, but at the pleasure of a king or emperor. The fact is, that human freedom has ever been won only by Spartan valor and ever maintained only by superior courage and intelligence. Progress towards universal liberty is slow; but since the middle ages it has been steady. The past five centuries have marked a radical advance. From the Pacification of Ghent to the battle of Marston Moor is one step; from Marston Moor to the battle of Bunker
Hill is one more; from Bunker Hill to the Proclamation of Emancipation, sealed with the blood of 40,000 freemen at Gettysburg, is still another.
This field represents something more than a great battlefield, a Golgotha, whence the spirits of the slain may ride forth on the night wind, or cry out from the breast of every storm that sweeps the wood. Under the canopy of smoke that hung over this valley during three days of hard fighting, two ideas contended for the mastery. It was not the fierce struggle of conspirators, who, disgraced in the eyes of the world, are seeking the overthrow of a government; but a grand contest in a fair field for the domination of a principle. When our fathers framed this government they left intact, within the territory over which it was to rule, two systems of civilization.
One settled upon Plymouth Rock, all free; the other along the banks of the James River, founded upon the institution of slavery. Whatever their expectations may have been, the two systems flourished side by side. And as each drew to its boundaries increasing numbers, multiplying wealth and greater political power, the difference between them became more marked and radical, until, in their social relations, in religious faith and personal characteristics, the inhabitants of the two sections were as distinct and separate as if they had been the descendants of different races.
The constitution, when ratified, contained a provision that representatives and direct taxes should be apportioned among the several states included within the Union according to their respective numbers, which should be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons,— including those bound to service for a number of years, and excluding Indians not taxed,— three-fifths of all other persons. The adoption of this provision was secured by the threat of the representatives of South Carolina and Georgia in the Constitutional Convention, that, without it, those two States would not join the Union. Upon their further demand it was also provided by the convention that Congress should not interfere with the importation of slaves prior to 1808. These provisions gave an immediate impetus to the growth and development of the Southern States through slavery, and from that early period the slave power was omnipotent in the government. It furnished a majority of the Presidents. It made war and expanded its territory. It formed cabinets and dissolved them. From the first, turbulent, tyrannical and disloyal, whenever it encountered serious opposition either in Congress or on the stump, it threatened to secede from the Union.
For more than seventy years the representatives of the free North had retreated before this threat of the slave master. The demand of the slave power in 1787 for exemption from a prohibitory act until 1808, had in 1860, become a demand that slaves should be recognized as property in every State in the Union, and instead of two States and a few hundred slaves, it represented eleven great commonwealths and held in bondage 4,000,000 human beings.
At last the conscience of the North was touched. At last the dull patriotism of the large commercial centres of the Northern States, ever eager for gain, and anxious to postpone the disturbing influences of a conflict, however righteous, was aroused from a long sleep, and at the general election which
followed, the verdict of the American ballot was pronounced emphatically against the further advance of slavery. The spirit of compromise between the sections had been exhausted, and the last argument used. The political atmosphere was charged with an electric current which set towards the field of battle. Until the explosion occurred, all progress on this continent was at an end.
Upon this field was fought the most important engagement of the great war which followed. Here the Army of the Potomac struck a blow for freedom that will echo down the ages. It erased the word slave from the statutes of the great Republic, and wrote citizen. It struck a death blow to the Confederacy and completed a Nation. From yonder heights the slave power recoiled beaten and broken; and from their summits there dawned a new era in the history of man.
Veterans, to-day you revisit the scenes where twenty-five years ago you stood in might and majesty, — years down whose swift current you have passed so peacefully that to many of you the events of those fateful July days must seem like the vague phantoms of a vanished dream. A generation unborn then has grown to manhood since. To-day your fellow citizens throughout the length and breadth of this land greet you with reverence and joy; reverence for the glorious deeds you performed, — joy that the wearers of the blue and the gray can now mingle in a common throng and with true fealty to the general government, place the crown and wreath above the sacred spot that holds the remains of a fallen comrade.
What memories rise as you identify each familiar place, and recall the impressions of a quarter of a century ago! After the battle of Chancellorsville, and in June, 1863, the Army of Northern Virginia slipped the leash which had bound it as the guardian of the Confederate capital, crossed the RappahannockRiver, and began its march northward. Its ranks had been swelled by the arrival of fresh recruits until it numbered 80,000 men equipped for battle. Its files were pervaded by the spirit of pride which all brave men feel in entering upon an enterprise of hazard on a grand scale. Above them floated banners that had been carried to victory in nearly every campaign since the Stars and Stripes were lowered at Sumter. Their leader possessed the confidence in his officers and men which continued success brings, and men and officers were devoted to their chief. The Army of the Potomac was slowly following up the invader, feeling its way to the trysting ground with deliberation, — now checked by the oft-enacted comedy of panic at Washington, and again moving on. Its fortunes had been most unhappy from its earliest organization; it had been doomed to meet the unexpected.
When a battle was imminent it was accustomed to change front and retreat, or having been pushed into a fight, to receive a crushing defeat, frequently with troops enough in reserve to have beaten the enemy in spite of bad generalship. Its "morale" was bad. In individual character it has never been equaled. The men who marched in its ranks were intelligent and thoughtful patriots. Having surrendered much for the sake of peace, when they left their shops, counters, farms and offices and took up arms, it was not to yield to seductive leadership, nor to make chase after the fitful shadow of military glory, but with the firm determination that with slavery or without,
the Union must and should be preserved. Defeat had tried their souls, but it had not shaken their purpose. The discipline of severe and disastrous campaigns had wrought of them the highest type of veterans. Its corps and division commanders were most able, well schooled, and eager for a day of reckoning with their foes.
On the night of June 27th, Colonel Jenkins with 2,000 cavalry was at Kingston, Longstreet's and Hill's Divisions were at Chambersburg, Ewell with two divisions occupied Carlisle, and Early had arrived at York. There was a panic at Philadelphia and Harrisburg, and dismay at New York. On the day that Early's skirmishers, stretching out from York toward Wrightsville, first saw the gleaming waters of the Susquehanna, Ewell fired the United States barracks at Carlisle, and the command of the Army of the Potomac was changed for the fifth time within a period of ten months; fortunately it devolved upon a man calm, wise and brave, and an officer who was willing to let his army fight under the circumstances without too much direction on his part. The excitement in Paris and Berlin, in London and St. Petersburg was intense. The horoscope of the future was about to be cast, and the fate of all free institutions determined.
On Tuesday, June 30th, the lines of the two armies were converging upon Gettysburg. Lee had his army well in hand. The scattered corps of the Northern army still lacked a definite objective, and Meade hesitated in his choice of a battleground. Each commander was ignorant of the immediate presence of the other in force. Both were without knowledge of the nature of the ground where the battle was finally fought. Towards the close of the day General Buford with a body of Federal horse occupied Gettysburg. The remaining hours of light revealed to the Federal officer that here nature had forged a great battleground. Immediately north and west of the village, a bold ridge stretched away to the south. South of the village a ridge still more prominent extended parallel to the other, the two separated by a rich valley a mile in width. Ten roads centered there and furnished the highways indispensable to the passage of a modern army with its equipments. His scouts informed him of the approach of Lee's army, and he resolved to give him battle.
On the following day at , General Sickles with the Third Corps was at Emmitsburg. A message from General Howard informed him that the battle of Gettysburg had begun, and urged him to hasten forward with his corps. The summons reached your regiment, the Eighty-sixth, just as the men had broken ranks to make coffee and rest after a forced march. Immediately the bugle sounded to fall in, and the march was resumed until your position on the field was reached that evening. As the sun dispersed the mist which hung like a thick veil between the two armies, and brought into picturesque relief the bold outlines of the SouthMountain, you knew that the day of fate had come at last. You knew that the First and Eleventh Corps had had a sharp fight with the enemy; that the battle had opened with a brilliant success, but in the end they had been forced to yield to superior numbers, and retreat; that Lee had faltered in his pursuit, and the beaten army had been rallied by General Hancock, on the slopes of Cemetery Hill.
The Confederate line of battle, crescent-shaped, extended from a position opposite Little Round Top to Benner's Hill. Longstreet commanded its right wing, Early the centre, and Ewell the left wing. Meade had the inside on ground more elevated, and his line of battle was in the shape of a fishhook. It was shorter, more compact, and more convenient to reinforce at any point than Lee's. Slocum commanded the right wing of Culp's Hill, Hancock the centre on Cemetery Hill, and Sickles the left wing. The line of the Third Corps extended across yon rocky (Jen, through this wood and away to the Peach Orchard, whence Humphreys' Division was refused along the Emmitsburg Road.
Ward's Brigade of Birney's Division formed the extreme left of the line, the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York occupying a position near the " Den," and the Eighty-sixth New York, this wood. Again Lee faltered. Had a premonition of defeat chilled the heart of the Confederate chief, his direction of the battle could not have been more fatal. Slowly the long hours of the hot July day passed by. It was in the afternoon when the signal gun was at last fired. Longstreet's and Hill's Divisions rushed forward upon the Third Corps and quickly enveloped it on three sides. The angle at the Peach Orchard presented a salient open to a cross-fire from the enemy's batteries. The Confederate purpose was to "roll up " the regiments of the corps, crush them, and then by a flank movement shake the Northern army from its stronghold on Cemetery Hill. The issue was on. Again, as on so many fields of the past, it was North against South; the men of cold, phlegmatic temperament against the warm blood of a sunnier clime.
The brunt of the first attack fell upon Sickles' left. A portion of Hood's Division interposed between the Third Corps and Little Round Top. Anderson's and Benning's Brigades charged Ward's Brigade, front and flank, with an ardor as impetuous as that of the Spanish Chivalry who fought round the great Cordova at the battle of Cerignola. They were resisted by men who " fire and load " with the same cool precision which distinguished our ancestors at Bennington and Saratoga. The roar of battle swept on to Graham's Brigade at the Peach Orchard, and Humphreys' Division. The Third Corps was caught in a whirlpool of war whose fierce currents dashed against it from every side and threatened a complete wreck. Twelve thousand men sustained the attack of 20,000. At such a time, commanded by an inefficient officer, the corps would have been easily destroyed. But General Sickles was equal to the emergency. A braver man never graced a saddle. As dauntless as Henry of Navarre, as active as Prince Rupert, he kept his divisions faced to the storm of battle which shook the earth about them, like the bold mariner, who, when caught in a tempest at sea, turns the stern of his vessel to the eye of the wind and beats out the fury of the gale by running against it.
This monument marks one of the critical points of the critical day of the great battle. Victor Hugo has said, "Two hostile armies on a field of battle are two wrestlers; each tries to throw the other. They grasp at every aid. A thicket is a point of support; a corner of a wall is a brace for the shoulder; for lack of a few sheds to lean upon a regiment loses its footing; a depression
in the plain, a movement of the soil, a convenient cross-path, a wood, a ravine may catch the heel of this Colossus which is called an army, and prevent him from falling."
In this wood, and across the Devil's Den, the heel of the Third Corps caught, and by gallant fighting, Ward's Brigade kept the whole army from falling. He clung to his position with grim energy, and repelled repeated attacks of the enemy, although against great odds, for two hours. The One hundred and twenty-fourth maintained its grip on the Den and touched bayonets with the enemy. None bore the test of those critical hours with greater steadiness than the Eighty-sixth Regiment of New York Volunteers. Recruited from the rock-ribbed hills of SteubenCounty, they brought to this fight the hardihood and courage of men reared on a rugged soil, and accustomed to the trials of a harsh climate. They brought the discipline of veterans whose quality had been tried on many a hard-fought field, at Manassas, at Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.
When the brigade was relieved, its position being no longer tenable, the two regiments marched out of the battle united as one, under the command of the late Colonel Lansing, of Corning. Both had suffered heavily. Colonel Ellis, of the One hundred and twenty-fourth, had been killed. A monument to his memory can be seen through the trees at our left. It marks the spot where a brave man and a good officer fell. Your own gallant colonel was severely, and it was then thought, fatally wounded, but he is with you, hale and hearty, to-day. And all will wish that Colonel Higgins may be permitted to enjoy many anniversaries of this day.
Meanwhile, General Warren had ascended Little Round Top and discovered that that hill, rising some 125 feet above the level of the valley, and two miles south of Cemetery Hill, was the key to the Federal position and the prize of the battle to whoever should win it. Vincent's Brigade of the Fifth Corps was detached to secure it. Hood also discovered its importance, and directed Law to take it. A desperate battle ensued for its possession. Law was defeated. The Fifth Corps occupied the hill in force, and the position of our army was rendered impregnable. Here was none of the pageantry of war, but the stern lock of battalions grappling in a death struggle. From the base of Little Round Top to the Emmitsburg Road "Swept the strong battle breakers o'er the green-sodded acres of the plain." "Hard pounding, gentlemen; let us see who will pound the longest," the Duke of Wellington is reported to have said at Waterloo, and won. "We have come to stay," cried Colonel Stone to his men in the first day's fight at Gettysburg.
The Third Corps made the supreme effort of the battle, staid during three hours of the severest fighting the world has ever known, and the Army of the Potomac triumphed.
HISTORICAL SKETCH BY MAJ. SAMUEL H. LEAVITT.
The Eighty-sixth Regiment New York Volunteer Infantry, Col. Benajah P. Bailey, commanding, was organized at Elmira, N. Y., November 23, 1861, and mustered into the United States service for three years. The different companies of the regiment were recruited as follows:
Company A, in Syracuse; B, at Addison; C and F, at Corning; D, at Hornellsville; E, at Elmira; G, at Canisteo; H, at Troupsburg; I, at Cooper's Plains; and K, at Woodhull. Eight of these companies were from SteubenCounty. We left Elmira for the seat of war, November 23, 1861, with 960 men, rank and file, and arrived at Washington, D. C, on the morning of the 24th. We marched immediately out to Bladensburg, where we went into camp; remained there but a short time when we were ordered to Good Hope, Md., where we were stationed until the following December. From Good Hope we moved to various places at which we were encamped for short intervals, finally going to Washington, where we remained on provost and guard duty until late in the month of August, 1862, when we were ordered to the front.
Our first engagement was at Manassas where our casualties were 13 killed, 67 wounded, and 38 missing. After the battle we fell back with the army to Alexandria, Va., remaining in that vicinity for several weeks. Just prior to the battle of Antietam the Eighty-sixth Regiment was at Fort Corcoran, opposite Georgetown, D. C Our division was hurried off through Washington to Harper's Ferry, making a forced march from there through Pleasant Valley and over South Mountain, but arrived only in time to witness Lee's army in full retreat. We joined the Army of the Potomac in the pursuit.
At the battle of Fredericksburg, the Eighty-sixth was in Whipple's Division, Third Corps, and was stationed in the city on the extreme right of the line. While not seriously engaged in that contest we had a number of men wounded. After the battle we crossed the river on pontoons near the Lacy House and returned to our former quarters.
At the battle of Chancellorsville the regiment took part in three distinct engagements. On the evening of May 1st, after dark, we took position in line of battle in the grounds around the Chancellor House. We held this position until the second, when our division was moved up the Plank Road for the purpose of intercepting a Confederate wagon train, which was moving south on the old Furnace Road. In the rough country beyond Hazel Grove we came in collision with the enemy and after a severe engagement we were driven back to the Grove.
In the meantime General Jackson had struck the Eleventh Corps, doubled them up and driven them back in disorder. Our division was cut off from the main army by the Confederates, and the Eighty-sixth, with other regiments composing the division, had to do some steady fighting to get in touch with our army again. After three attempts we managed to cut our way through the enemy's lines, sustaining severe losses. On coming into the line of battle again with our own army on that Sunday morning, we were directed to support some pieces of artillery stationed south of the Plank Road.
The Confederates during the course of that day made many desperate charges for the capture of these guns, but were repulsed. In the afternoon, a more desperate effort than ever was made on that portion of General Sickles' line, west of the Chancellor House, in which attack Lieutenant Colonel Chapin, commanding the Eighty-sixth Regiment, was killed, as were also Capts. D. E. Ellsworth and W. W. Angel; Major Higgins, Adjutant Stafford, and Lieutenant Woodward were seriously wounded. The last-named officer died a few days later. In this battle the regiment was under fire continuously for three days, and lost heavily in killed and wounded.
In the forepart of June we were sent with three or four other regiments up the RappahannockRiver to Beverly Ford to support the cavalry, a portion of which crossed the river near Brandy Station, on the 9th of June. Here we had a hot encounter with the enemy, losing 6 men killed and a number wounded. We joined the main army again at Bealton Station, and with diminished numbers took up the line of march to Gettysburg, which proved to be a long and tiresome tramp.
About p. m., on July 1, 1863, our division of the Third Corps halted for dinner on the outskirts of Emmitsburg, Md., and about twelve miles from Gettysburg. The fires had been barely kindled when the bugle sounded " pack up." The booming of cannon could be heard in the distance, and we were hurried off at double-quick. The hot July sun was blazing down on us, and many fell by the wayside from the effects of the heat. We took position that night on the battlefield of July 2d, near the historic "Wheatfield." Some firing could be heard near the village of Gettysburg, and an occasional shell exploded rather near us. Early in the morning of the 2d we marched to the south and in rear of the rocky cavern known as the "Devil's Den." About noon our brigade (Ward's) was advanced to its position in line of battle, our regiment taking position in the woods beyond the Devil's Den, with the One hundred and twenty-fourth New York on our immediate left, and the Twentieth Indiana on our right. Between 3 and 4 o'clock p. m., the enemy, who had been pressing the right of the Third Corps, which was now far advanced to the front, moved forward in solid column, halting for a moment when they had reached the edge of the woods in our front They immediately advanced again, rapidly and with fierce yells; but our ranks pouring out a deadly fire checked them, and they were driven back. Rallying again they reformed and fired a sharp volley at us which caused our line to waver some, but we hung on grimly and maintained our ground until 5 p. m. The enemy had pressed the brigade back from the Devil's Den, and had attacked Round Top. Those in our immediate front greatly outnumbered us. Our left flank had been turned and we were forced to fall back, which we did in good order. Our losses in this battle were 11 killed, 51 wounded, and 4 missing. Captain John Warner was among the killed, and Lieutenant Colonel Higgins was seriously wounded.
During the afternoon of the 3d of July, our regiment supported General Hancock and the Second Corps while sustaining the shock of Pickett's charge. No losses were sustained by the Eighty-sixth on that day. The regiment was highly commended by our respective division and brigade commanders,
Generals Birney and Ward, for its good conduct on the battlefield of Gettysburg.
On the 5th of July, we left the scene of that great battle to follow up General Lee's retreating army. We crossed the Potomac River at Berlin, and marched up through LoudounValley. Later on, and in the same month, we encountered Ewell's Corps at Manassas Gap, near its entrance, and drove him back into Shenandoah Valley. This battle is known as WappingHeights. We afterwards marched on to Warrenton, Va., and were engaged with the enemy at Auburn, Kelly's Ford, Mine Run, and Locust Grove. In the winter of 1864, at Brandy Station, the army was reorganized and the Third Corps was consolidated into one division, making the Third Division of the Second Corps. In January, 1864, most of the men in the Eighty-sixth Regiment re-enlisted, and then went home on the customary veteran furlough of thirty days, returning to the army in February, and then joining the ranks of the Second Corps.
On the 3d of May, 1864, we broke camp at Brandy Station, crossed the RapidanRiver at Ely's Ford and entered upon the campaign of the Wilderness, our regiment being made up of 450 men rank and file. On the night of May 4th, we bivouacked on the old battlefield of Chancellorsville, and the next day pressed on to the Wilderness. The survivors who participated in the trials and hardships of those eventful days will remember the desperate fighting at the Brock Road and Po River, in which our regiment had a fierce encounter with the enemy at close quarters, hand-to-hand. We lost 32 men killed, and had a large number wounded. In that engagement every member of our color guard was either killed or wounded, and it was the good fortune of the writer to be able to carry the colors from the field and to save them from capture by the Rebels. The regiment went into the engagement with 300 men, of which number 150 were numbered among the killed, wounded, or missing after the battle. Capt. John Phinney and Adjt. James Cherry were among the killed; and Capt. Samuel Stone was killed the same day at Alsop's Farm, where Capt. Vincent was severely wounded.
At the battle of Spotsylvania, on May 12th, the Eighty-sixth with the Third Division of the Second Corps formed the first line in the attack upon the enemy's works, which were captured together with 16 pieces of artillery which were turned against their former owners. There was good hard fighting that day, and a Confederate division numbering 4,000 men were taken prisoners. On the morning of the 13th our regiment could muster only 75 men. As we had opened the campaign with 450 in active service it will be easily comprehended what rough treatment we received in that ten days of battle. From Spotsylvania we went to Anderson's Farm, North Anna, Totopotomoy, and Cold Harbor. We crossed the James River at Wilcox Landing, and arrived at Petersburg June 15th. We took part in the battles of the next four days.
On the morning of June 16th, we took possession of the enemy's abandoned works. On the morning of the 16th, a shell from a Rebel battery passed through the regiment, and exploding killed Lieutenant Stanton, and wounded several others. We remained in the vicinity for some time, constantly chang-
ing our position but all the while under fire, and losing many of our men killed and wounded. On the 27th of July, with the Second Corps, we marched to City Point, crossed the Appomattox at Point of Rocks, and at Deep Bottom crossed the James River. We encountered the enemy, and at night recrossed the river and fell back to the Petersburg front. And here followed the battle of Reams' Station. After another engagement at Deep Bottom in the month of August we relieved the Ninth Corps at City Point, the latter corps going into the fight at the explosion of the Mine.
On October 27th the regiment bore its part in the battle of Hatcher's Run, where it sustained a heavy loss in killed and wounded. In this action we were completely surrounded by the Rebels. Night came on, and a heavy rain set in; both armies were mixed up. About in the morning we managed to extricate ourselves, and made our escape with the loss of a few men who were made prisoners by the enemy. Lieutenant Rathbone was among the missing when we made camp again, and he was never heard of afterwards.
We were then marched to the works at Petersburg where we relieved a brigade in FortHell. We remained there, living under ground and protected by our bomb-proof defences, until December. There was a constant shower of projectiles, big and little, from the Rebel works falling about us during these months. Col. M. B. Stafford, a brave and popular officer, was mortally wounded by the bursting of a shell, and died in the fort, December I, 1864.
About that time the Eighty-sixth, being relieved from duty at FortHell, joined the Fifth Corps, which with the Third Division, Second Corps, took part in the Weldon Raid, going as far south as Weldon, N. C, or near there.
The men suffered intensely on this march from a cold storm of rain which turned to sleet and snow. On February 5 and 7, 1865, occurred the second battle of Hatcher's Run, in which the Eighty-sixth took part. In this position we were at the breaking through of the lines at Petersburg. We crossed through the lines just south of the Boydton Plank Road, marched through the woods in our front, but found that the enemy a short time previous had abandoned their works and were in full retreat. Imagine our joy on beholding our own cavalry passing down inside the enemy's works. We marched through to the left and upon the Boydton Plank Road to the outskirts of Petersburg.
In the morning we turned our backs to the city without having had the satisfaction of entering it. We marched after the retiring army, picking up stragglers and reviewing with satisfaction other unmistakable signs of '' the beginning of the end."
The wake of Lee's fleeing columns was strewn with burning wagon trains, camp and garrison equipage, dead and dying horses, and maimed and brokendown soldiers in ragged uniforms of gray. So we marched on, frequently coming upon and skirmishing with the trailing Confederate brigades.
On the 28th, after several attempts to take a piece of artillery which had annoyed us throughout the day, the regiment made a final charge and captured it. Two men of Company C of our regiment pushed through a swamp of alders, within twenty feet of the gun, when the last shot was fired;
the enemy abandoned it, and the men took the piece before the smoke had cleared away.
On the next day, April 9th, General Lee surrendered. The excitement was intense, and the enthusiasm unbounded. Men who an hour before had been unable to stand from fatigue, capered about and cut " pigeon wings" with frantic glee. Bands played, flags waved, hats filled the air, the host of artillery and infantry joined in one grand, wild symphony of cannon and musketry that made those in the rear who had not yet heard the good news, think that the greatest battle of the war had commenced.
On the 11th of June we marched back to Burkesville Junction, and after a few weeks of rest made our way with the army to Washington. We marched through Richmond, passing Libby Prison, at that time full of Confederate soldiers; the city was also filled with paroled Confederate prisoners. We arrived about the middle of May at our last camp, at Bailey's Cross Roads, near Washington. We then took part in the greatest military pageant that this continent has yet seen, the Grand Review at Washington. On the 27th of June, 1865, the Eighty-sixth New York Regiment was duly mustered out the service of the United States, after three years and eight months of active duty with the Army of the Potomac.
The total number of men who had been enrolled in the regiment was 1,318. The losses in battle were: killed, 13 officers and 159 men; total, 172. Number wounded, 611. On the 29th of June we broke camp, marched through the city of Washington, and boarded trains bound for our Northern homes.
At Elmira, July 2, 1865, we turned over our arms and accoutrements to Uncle Sam at Barracks No. 1; received our last pay as soldiers, and were finally mustered out. We bade adieu to the stirring life of camp and field to return once more to the peaceful monotony of rural life.
We bade farewell to comrades as brave as any that wore the blue, and as chivalrous as any knight that ever wore plate of Milan steel.
The following is a list of the battles in which the Eighty-sixth Regiment took part:
Second Bull Run, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Beverly Ford, Gettysburg, Wapping Heights, Auburn, Kelly's Ford, Locust Grove, Mine Run, Wilderness, Po River, Spotsylvania, Anderson's Farm, North Anna, Totopotomoy, Cold Harbor, Siege of Petersburg, Jones's House, Deep Bottom, First Hatcher's Run, Second Hatcher's Run, Five Forks, Amelia Springs, Farmville, Surrender of Lee's Army, and many skirmishes not included.