Captain Joseph Gregg
Capt. Joseph Gregg from Newfield

Civil War - 137th NY Volunteers

Company I of the 137th N. Y. Volunteers was comprised of many local men. Company I recruited men from Newfield, Ithaca, Danby, and Groton. The 137th served in some important campaigns including the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman's March to the Sea. Below is a regimental history of the 137th Volunteers written by their surgeon, John M. Farrington.

137th infantry Newfield at Gettysburg Civil War Veterans
Martin Smith Capt. Joseph Gregg The Draft

137th REGIMENT INFANTRY

Historical Sketch By Surgeon John M. Farrington

This regiment was organized at Binghamton, N.Y., from recruits enlisted in the Twenty-fourth senatorial district. Four companies were raised in Broome, three in Tioga, and three in Tompkins counties. The regiment was mustered into the United States service September 25, 1862, and left for the seat of war two days afterwards. Capt. David Ireland, of the Fifteenth United States Infantry, who was recruiting in Binghamton, was appointed colonel of the regiment, and Koert S. Van Voorhees, of Ithaca, received the appointment of lieutenant colonel. Colonel Ireland brought to the command such knowledge and experience of military service that by his drill and discipline the regiment rapidly came to the front as one of the most efficient in the service. Lieutenant Colonel Van Voorhees had the advantage of several years’ service in the New York State Militia, and was an able and accomplished officer. The regiment contained a noble body of men, of splendid physical appearance, most of whom had been reared in the rural districts.

But little need be said of the departure of the regiment from Binghamton, for similar scenes were at that time occurring in many cities and villages of the state, as the boys in blue marched from their camps of organization to the railroads for transportation to the seat of war. These were the times that tried not only men’s souls, but with more severity still those of the gentler sex. Deep seated below the cheers and applause which were given to these brave soldier volunteers as they marched through the streets, there was, in many instances, the most profound anguish; for there had been many a sad scene at the homes of these enlisted boys and men when the hour came in which to say good-bye.

The regiment went by special train to Washington via Elmira, Williamsport and Baltimore. We were compelled to ride in freight and on open platform cars; but unlike many other regiments did not lose a man by accident on the route. On reaching Washington we were ordered to Camp Chase, on the opposite side of the Potomac, but before reaching the Long Bridge the order was countermanded, and the regiment was sent to Frederick, Md., by rail.

We remember this locality as our first encampment. It was a pasture field about half a mile from the city. Every church and most of the public buildings were at that time filled with the wounded brought from the battlefield of Antietam, the fight there having occurred just twelve days previous to our arrival at Frederick. On October 4th we moved to Pleasant Valley, near Maryland Heights, and on the 29th to Harper’s Ferry, where we took the Charlestown Pike to Bolivar Heights, about two miles distant, and went into camp. We remained here until the 10th of December, 1862. We were not far from the enemy’s lines, and for the first time our men did picket duty in the face of the enemy, and some of our boys straying beyond the picket line were captured by Confederate cavalry scouts. While in Pleasant Valley our regiment was assigned to the Twelfth Army Corps, Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum commanding. Our division was the Second, under command of Brig. Gen. John W. Geary. Our brigade, composed of five New York regiments, the Sixtieth, Seventy-eighth, One hundred and second, One hundred and thirty-seventh, and One hundred and forty-ninth, was commanded by Brig. Gen. George S. Greene.

On November 9th we made our first reconnaissance into the enemy’s lines, with our division, to Charlestown, Va., General Geary being in command. The troops were much interested in the town because of it notoriety as the place of trial and execution of John Brown. As the regiment was marching by, the writer rode his horse into the Court House, up to the judge’s stand, and out at the other front door, much to the amusement of the boys, but also to the unexpressed indignation of the residents, who regarded the act as one of desecration to their hall of justice.

While the troops were halted in the main street of Charlestown another new experience was encountered by our regiment. Some Rebel cavalry had been discovered by our advance, and General Geary ordered the battery to shell the woods to which they had retreated; while the cannon were firing, an orderly came riding rapidly down the line, giving the order “Load.” Some of us will never forget how the sound of that order, given for the first time under such circumstances, stirred our emotions. We marched about four miles beyond Charleston, driving the Confederates before us. Judging from the appearance of their recently vacated camps their numbers were few. Having accomplished the object of our expedition we returned to camp, taking with us some prisoners, contrabands and beef cattle.

The site of our camp a Bolivar had been continuously occupied by Union of Confederate troops from the very beginning of the war. The result was that the soil, saturated with the germs of disease made our camp a pestilential one. Soon we were visited with a grave and extensive epidemic of typhoid fever, and our regimental sick list increased rapidly until it reached 200. It became necessary to send the most severe cases to the general hospital at Harper’s Ferry, where, on one day, four of our men died from this disease. During the last four weeks of our stay at Bolivar Heights there were nearly 400 cases of typhoid fever, and scarcely a day passed without a death in camp.

 

Content provided by Gary Emerson

Source: New York at Gettysburg, J.B. Lyon Co., Printers, Albany, 1902, pp. 936-37. Thank you to Erin Smith for typing this excerpt.