17 May 2011

Washington Counties Own; The 123rd

Abraham Lincoln’s need for troops prompted a “War Meeting” to be held in Argyle, New York 22 July 1862. At this meeting the men of Washington County, NY decided they would raise a regiment made up of men from Washington County. They began recruiting, established a camp in Salem, NY and one month latter Washington County had brought together a regiment of her own sons.

The 123rd New York went into winter camp in the Loudoun Valley, Virginia 8 Nov 1862. They took part in General Ambrose Burnside’s “Mud March” in Jan 1863, before going back into camp near Stafford Court House, Virginia. The first combat came for the men near Wilderness Tavern as a part of the Chancellorsville campaign. Following Chancellorsville the 123rd as a part of a reorganization of 6 of the Regiments of the First and Second Brigade, became a part of the First Brigade, First Division of the Union 12th Corps. The men of these six Regiments were all veterans, but would be fighting together and under Colonel Archibald McDougall for the first time at Gettysburg.

The men marched from Two Taverns on 1 Jul 1863 to Gettysburg along the Baltimore Pike. Ordered in at the double quick, the men could hear cannon and knew the First and Eleventh Corps had been engaged. When about a mile from town the Brigade received ordered to march off the road to the right. They formed a line near the Rock Creek, behind Colegrove’s Brigade, where they lay on their arm the rest of the night.

At 4am on 2 Jul 1863 the 123rd were ordered up and to form battle lines. Shortly after they were told to stand down and grab some breakfast. The Brigade received orders about 9am to move to Culp’s Hill. Moving across fields they formed up on the right of Geary’s Division and left of Kane’s. In two lines along the crest of a rocky ridge, down a wooded hill and to the Rock Creek, in front line from the left; the 123rd, 20th Connecticut, and 46th Pennsylvania. In the back line behind a wall were the 3rd Maryland, 145th New York and 5th Connecticut. In a strong position to begin with the men lost no time before building breastworks. As Private Henry Morhous of the 123rd put it, “the boys, remembering Chancellorsville, were determined to have good works, this time, and went to work with a will.”

After working all day building a substational breast works, the men hoped for a rest, but it wasn’t to be. In the early evening, sometime between 4 and 6 pm the 123rd with the rest of the Division were ordered to the left of the Union line to help repel Longstreet’s attack. The men made a 2 mile march across fields onto Cemetery Ridge and south where they formed up behind the V Corps. Sergeant LR Coy of the 123rd said of the march, we were “8 thousand men in steady line with guns at right shoulder shift all on a run while fugitives from the III Corps were continually breaking through our lines.” Their timing of arrival saw the Confederates falling back, and so the men were ordered to return to their line on Culp’s Hill.

Marching back Colonel McDougall received information about 10 pm that the works were occupied by Confederate soldiers. In the darkness the Colonel sent out a company from the 5th CT and Company “I” of the 123rd NY to feel out the situation. They found the enemy in their old works. First Lieutenant Marcus Beadle of the 123rd was taken prisoner, but was able to call out a warning to the rest of the men. They pulled back into the night with only one killed and Beadle along with 5 men from the 5th CT captured. The men of the 1st Brigade spent another night sleeping on their arms in a cornfield between the Baltimore Pike and McAllister’s Wood, with the 123rd in an advanced position.

The morning of 3 Jul 1863 broke for the 123rd when a shell burst from a Union gun on Power’s Hill, killing and wounding 2 men. Holding their line until early afternoon when the 123rd was ordered forward to relieve the 20th CT and drive the enemy from the breastworks. They drove Confederate General George H Steuart’s Maryland men off the Hill.

McAllister Mill
 As the Confederate cannons began to boom preceding Picket’s Charge, the men of the 123rd once again found themselves under fire. Many of the shells over reaching their mark on Cemetery Ridge landed among the soldiers posted on Culp’s Hill. When Picket’s Charge got under way the 123rd found themselves once again ordered to come to the aid of Corps on another part of the field. They marched this time to the relief of the II Corps, reaching Cemetery Ridge in time to see the Confederates retreating back across the field. They retired to the right of their breastworks near Rock Creek, where the 123rd found themselves under fire from Confederate sharpshooters in the McAllister Mill. Captain Norman F Weer of Company “E” was wounded in the knee and latter died from the wound.

Around 7 am on the morning of 4 Jul 1863 the 123rd and 46th PA were assigned to Colonel Silas Colegrove. They along with a battery made a reconnaissance to the north and east of Gettysburg as far as the railroad. Finding no enemy the men returned to their works on Culp’s Hill. The rest of the day was spent collecting equipment, weapons and burying the dead.

The 123rd New York were not heavily engaged at Gettysburg, but held a strong position and spent a lot of time going to the aid of others. They had 4 killed, 9 wounded, and 12 missing.


n.a., “1737 History of Washington County New York, with Illustrations and Biographical Sketches of Some of It’s Prominent Men and Pioneers” [Philadephia,PA, Everts and Ensign, 1878]

Bradley M Gottfried, “Brigades of Gettysburg, The Union and Confederate Brigades at the Battle of Gettysburg” [n.p., DaCapo Press, 2002]

James C Rogers, “Report of Lieutenant Colonel James C Rogers, The One Hundred and Twenty-third New York Infantry” [Pleasant Valley, MD, 18 Jul 1863]

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