South Mountain by Rick Reeve

South Mountain by Rick Reeve
South Mountain by Rick Reeve depicting the wounding of General Garland

Thursday, September 29, 2011

The Union Regiment: 27th New York Volunteer Infantry

National Flag of Company H, 27th New York
On September 14th, 1862, the 27th New York found itself in the thick of the fighting during the 6th Corps assault on Crampton's Gap outside of Burkittsville, Maryland. The regiment would be deployed as skirmishers and when the order came to charge, they were among the Union wave that swept up the mountain in the climactic twilight assault. The regiment would suffer 6 men killed and 27 wounded.

What would become the 27th New York was accepted into state service on May 21,1861 with  companies that were formed in late April and early May and were recruited as follows (location,recruiter):

Company A: White Plains, Captain Joseph J. Chambers
Company B:  Lyons, Captain Alexander D. Adams
Company C: Binghamton, Captain Joseph J. Bartlett
Company D: Binghamton, Captain Hiram C. Rogers
Company E: Rochester, Captain George G. Wanzer
Company F: Binghamton, Captain Peter Jay
Company G: Lima, Captain James Perkins
Company H: Mount Norris, Captain Charles E. Martin
Company I: Angelica, Captain Curtis C. Gardiner
Company K: Albion, Captain Henry L. Achilles, Jr.

Once these various companies were gathered at Elmira, New York, and election of officers was held and the elected officers were as follows:

Colonel: Henry W. Slocum
Lt. Colonel: Joseph J. Chambers
Major: Joseph J. Bartlett

With these elections, the State Military Board verified the elections and designated the new regiment the 27th New York Volunteer Infantry. The new recruits took the nickname "Union Regiment" because they had been recruited from various parts of the state and had by their own choice, regimented themselves with each other. The regiment would only remain in New York until the middle of July when it was ordered to Washington, D. C. where it was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 2nd Division in the Army of Northeastern Virginia and participated in the the First Battle of Bull Run where it was heavily engaged. Colonel Slocum would be wounded and Major Bartlett would take command of the regiment. When the day began going against the Union forces, Bartlett was ordered to retreat and go into line of battle a various points to cover the retreat of the defeat Union army. The regiment lost 130 men killed, wounded, and missing in their first fight.

Following the disaster at Bull Run, like the rest of the Union army around Washington, the 27th drilled and drilled. The army was also reorganized and christened the Army of the Potomac under Major General George McClellan, affectionately known to the men as Lil Mac. The 27th would find themselves in Brigadier General Heintzelman's brigade from August 4 to October 15 when they would become part of the the former commander, Henry Slocum's brigade in William Franklin's division. In the spring of 1862 they would become part of the 2nd brigade, under Slocum, of the 1st Division, 1st Corps of the Army of the Potomac. This assignment would last until May when the division was assigned to the 6th Corps. The regiment would remain in this assignment until May 1863.

When McClellan took his massive Army of the Potomac to the Virginia Peninsula in an attempt to capture Richmond on that front, the 27th New York found itself marching through the feverish land of the Virginia tidewater region. During the advance up the peninsula, the regiment would fight it skirmishes at West Point and near Mechanicsville at various points in May and at the beginning of June. During this campaign, the regiment would find itself in a brigade with the 5th Maine, 16th New York, and 96th Pennsylvania under command of Joseph Bartlett, who had risen to the rank of  colonel. When the Confederate Army, now under Robert E. Lee, lashed out of Richmond attacking McClellan's army in what would become the Seven Days' Battles, the 27th New York found itself in the thick of the fighting. Taking part in the actions at Gaines Mill, Glendale, and Malvern Hill, the regiment suffered heavily losing 162 men and officers in the week long fighting. McClellan would pull his army back to Harrison's Landing where it would lick its wounds and wait for its next call to action.

For the next few weeks, the 27th New York remained on the Peninsula suffering through the head of a Virginia summer. Unknown to these Union men, Robert E. Lee had quietly pulled his army back to Richmond and northward to combat John Pope's Army of Virginia that was ransacking the northern Virginia area. With the main theatre of operations changed, McClellan's massive army was useless on the peninsula and it began its trek back to Washington by water. The 27th left its camp on the peninsula on August 20th marching from Yorktown to Newport News where it arrived on August 21st. The next day the regiment embarked for its trip to Alexandria where it disembarked on August 25th. It was immediately ordered to picket duty. On the 28th, it marched to Fairfax then Centreville. The regiment would not actively participate in the Second Battle of Bull Run but it would assist in covering the retreating army back to Washington. It would go into camp on September 1st at Fort Lyon.

Over the next days, the 27th hunkered down in the defenses of Washington with the remainder of the Union army while upriver at Leesburg, Robert E. Lee decided now was the best time to invade Maryland and between the 4th and 7th of September, Lee's victorious army crossed the Potomac and lurched toward Frederick, Maryland. The 27th would remain at Fort Lyon until the 5th when it was ordered to march towards Washington. Breaking camp late in the evening, the 27th marched across the Long Bridge, through Washington and Georgetown before making camp on Georgetown Heights, a march of 15 miles. The next night the regiment would again march this time only 7 miles. It would then continue its marches passing Sugarloaf Mountain on the 12th where its members saw dead cavalryman from skirmishes fought just a few days earlier. The regiment would march until it arrived at Burkittsville on the morning of September 14th.

Upon arriving, the 96th Pennsylvania was ordered to advance on the town. It a strong skirmish line, the Confederate cavalry that was holding the town was forced back. The 27th along with the rest of Colonel Bartlett's brigade then moved through the town deploying in the fields just east in preperation for the assault on Crampton's. The attack began at about 4 o'clock in the evening and the 27th was deployed as skirmishers. From the history of the 27th:

"We were soon ordered forward, and in heavy marching order, at  double quick, deployed as skirmishers on an open plain, facing the mountain, the centre of the line following the road which crosses the mountain at this place, known as Crampton's Pass. As we advanced, the enemy opened on us  with artillery, stationed half-way up the mountain, and with a heavy volley of musketry from behind trees and rocks, and a stone wall at the foot of the mountain."

The 27th was supported 200 yards to the rear by 5th Maine and 16th New York. With the 27th coming under heavy fire, these two regiments rushed forward and the 27th reformed in line of battle and the fighting began in earnest.

"The skirmishers advanced splendid line till within thirty or forty rods of the wall, when we were ordered to rally, and give place to the line of battle that was coming in close behind us. One squad of the pickets took cover in a barn-yard, behind the sheds and outbuildings, where they kept up a lively and telling fire till the main line came up. Another squad of pickets, not hearing the order to rally, found themselves between the two lines of battle and were obliged to lie down . . . bullets cutting up the ground all around them. Others joined in the main line in the charge on the stone wall. As our men went over the wall, some of the rebels tried to retreat, and others threw down their arms and surrendered. On went our line, up the side of the steep mountain, so steep in many places that the men had to pull themselves up by taking hold of the bushes."

This was the climactic charge that captured Crampton's Gap. After breaking the second line that was forming at the gap itself, the battle was over. The frenzied charge was so successful that hundreds of Confederates were taken prisoner and several battle flags were captured. For its fight, the 27th lost only 33 men killed and wounded. The regiment would be given the gruesome task of burying the dead following this fight. When fighting began around Sharpsburg, the regiment was still on top of the mountain. Hearing the sounds of cannonading in the distance, the regiment began its march towards this new battlefield arriving in Keedysville before marching to the northern sector of the battlefield where it would go into line of battle in the infamous Cornfield. Gratefully, the regiment would not take a major part in the battle as the two foes had beaten themselves to death literally on the ground the New Yorkers occupied. On the 18th, the 27th remained in position awaiting what could possibly be a Confederate counterattack, one that never came. During the day an informal truce was declared so that the dead could be buried. The men of the 27th did their part and several could not eat and became sick because the bodies of those killed had decomposed so rapidly.

Following the repulse of Lee, the 27th marched towards Williamsport on the 20th of September to combat a suspected river crossing. No crossing was attempted and the regiment marched to Bakersville where it would go into camp until November when Ambrose Burnside replaced McClellan has the commander of the Army of the Potomac. Under Burnside, the 27th would be take part in the Fredericksburg Campaign but it would luckily find itself in reserve during the disastrous assaults on Marye's Heights. It's next military action would take place during the assault on Marye's Heights during the 2nd Battle of Fredericksburg where it would lose 19 men killed and wounded. With this final battle, the regiment would find itself returning to New York. Arriving in Elmira, the regiment was discharged from service on May 31, 1863.


1. G.B. Fairchild. History of the 27th Regiment N.Y. Vols.: Being a ecord of its ore than two years of Service in the War for the Union, From May 21st, 1861 to May 31st, 1863. Binghamton, NY: Carl &Matthews printers.

2. 27th New York Infantry at New York State Military Museum

3. Flag Image found at NYSMM

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