The Siege of Yorktown

The siege of Yorktown followed in April of 1862, and during that campaign, on April 16th, the 36th NY fought at Lees Mill Dam (also known as Burnt Chimneys) with no casualties. Afterward one frightened private from the 36th was put on guard duty and falsely cried out to the brigade that "the whole rebel army" was on its way -- he threw his gun away and ran like hell. It was a false alarm. The 36th witnessed the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5th, but did not partake in the fighting. Afterwards the troops marched to White House Landing, and from there they proceeded toward Richmond with plans to attack the Confederate capital.

The Battle of Williamsburg

The 36th witnessed the Battle of Williamsburg on May 5th, but did not partake in the fighting. Charles Seton Lindsay records in his memoir that when the regiment approached the Williamsburg battlefield the next day, "...I saw at some little distance to the side, two men standing facing each other against the trunk of a tree. I found they were a Northerner and a Southerner; the former had pinned the enemy to the tree with his bayonet, while the Southerner, in his last agony, had evidently fired his pistol straight in the Northern man's face and practically blown it to pieces. There they stood, the one spiked to the tree, with his head hanging forward on his enemy's shoulder, his limp arm by his side; the other, supported by his gun, which was still gripped in his stiff hands, his body arched back as from the force of the shot, what was left of his face staring up into the heavens. All that held him up was his hold of his gun. So dreadful a sight may I never again!" (Charles Seton Lindsay, "Some of Our Yesterdays," p.60).

The Battle of Seven Pines

On May 31-June 1st, 1862 the 36th NYSV was engaged at Seven Pines (Fair Oaks), Virginia, just a few miles east of Richmond. During the clash, the 36th NYSV was positioned at the northeast juncture of the Nine Mile Road and the Williamsburg-Richmond Road. As part of Devens' Brigade, the 36th NY fought well. According to Generals Couch and Keyes, they were the last Union regiment to leave the battlefield, taking eleven rebel prisoners and suffering heavy casualties. In his official report of the action, Corps commander General Erasmus Darwin Keyes praised the 36th for its resilience and fighting, and for its stubborn refusal to surrender the field. Captain Quackenbos of Company E was singled out for his courageous actions at Seven Pines, and Captain Daniel (who had been recently reinstated to command of Company D) was seriously wounded, along with a host of other officers (source of info: Couch report, OR, pp..908-913; Keyes report, OR, pp.877-878; Devens report, OR, pp.906-907; Daniel records, National Archives).

Most of the battle transpired on May 31st. Although the 36th NY was not officially engaged in the fighting of June 1st at Seven Pines, several detachments of the Washington Volunteers did volunteer to assist General Hooker, and they were superficially wounded on June 1st. In the two days of fighting Company D of the 36th NY suffered the highest casualties in the regiment. The company had over 38% of the regiment's battle casualties, and 29% of the fatalities. It also had the highest number of officers wounded. Indeed, Captain Daniel’s wounds were so severe that he had to be sent to a hospital in Annapolis, Maryland for treatment. He remained there for many months (source: Adjutant General's Report).

After the Battle of Seven Pines, the 36th camped with its brigade near Savage’s Station. Surgeon Edward B. Dalton was busy making amputations at a makeshift hospital there; he sent numerous soldiers home that month. Later, near the swamps of Seven Pines, even Surgeon Dalton succumbed to malaria and had to be sent home to New York. Daniel Faxon, the 27 year-old 2nd Lieutenant from Company A, died of malaria at Savage's Station hospital on June 19th. Daniel Faxon's 23 year-old brother Elihu was captain of Company A, and he was present when his older brother passed away. This was one of the regiment's saddest stories, for both Faxons eventually perished – Captain Elihu Faxon was killed by a shell the following spring at Marye's Heights, during the Battle of Chancellorsville.

On June 25, 1862, the 36th NYSV took part in the Battle of Oak Grove (aka King’s Schoolhouse), the first of the Seven Days’ Battles. Although it was a frightening clash (located not far from Seven Pines), in scope it was not a major battle. Nevertheless, five men from the 36th NY were injured, including one officer.

The Battle of Malvern Hill

On July 1, 1862 came the Battle of Malvern Hill (last of the Seven Days’ Battle). The 36th NYSV were stationed at the very center of the field near West House -- just beside Willis Church Road -- as part of Palmer's Brigade. During this engagement, four companies of the 36th NYSV (Co. B, the two "British Volunteer Companies" D and K; and a fourth which has never been identified) were sent to the front lines under the command of Captain James J. "Paddy" Walsh, to lead an offensive charge down the hill toward the oncoming rebel army. "Walsh’s Brigade," as it was erroneously referred to in contemporary battle records, raced down the hill to the cheers of the Union Army of the Potomac behind them. Coming up the hill to meet this detachment of the 36th NYSV was General George B. Anderson’s Carolinian Brigade. Within moments, the four companies selected from the 36th NYSV were engaged in fiersome hand to hand combat with the Carolinians, but the 36th NYSV prevailed and captured the colors of the 14th North Carolina. Unfortunately, as they were charging down the hill, several men from the 36th NYSV were hit by friendly fire from Union troops further up the hill. And when the Confederates were reinforced, Walsh's detachment had to turn tail and run back up the hill; a number of soldiers were caught in this fusillade and were left wounded on the hillside.

The Battle of Malvern Hill was a Union success, but there had been many casualties. Several changes had to be made afterward in the 36th NY. For his actions and bravery on the field at Malvern Hill, Captain James J. "Paddy" Walsh was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel of the 36th NY. He replaced Daniel Hungerford, who had resigned due to illness.

Colonel Browne Replaces Innes

William Henry Browne was named as the regiment's new colonel, replacing Charles Innes, who had resigned due to malarial illness. The 36 year-old Browne was a prominent attorney and budding politician from downtown Manhattan; he was also a veteran of the Mexican War and an ex-cadet at the United States Military Academy. Up until now Browne had served as Lieutenant Colonel with the 31st NY (source: Boatner, 1988; Manhattan City Directory).

The Army of the Potomac stayed at Harrison’s Landing on the Virginia Peninsula throughout July, but in August 1862 Lincoln ordered the army north to Maryland. The 5th Corps went first, leaving Fort Monroe on August 20th. Then the 3rd Corps left, followed by the 6th and the 2nd. The 4th Corps was the last to leave, on August 29th; Couch's Division, containing the 36th NY, was the last division to leave. All of these forces moved north, towards Maryland, at the beginning of September (Martin, 1992, p.238).

Coincidentally, Captain James Townsend Daniel of Company D was recovering from his battle injuries at Annapolis, and he met with the 36th NY as they entered Maryland. Soon he was restored to full command in Company D. Then, on September 17th 1862, The Battle of Antietam near Sharpsburg, Maryland transpired. The 36th NY and the rest of Couch's Division were not able to help on that tragic day; they were detained in a deadly, little-known skirmish at Crampton's Gap (near South Mountain and Turner’s Pass), and did not make it to the battlefield until the next morning. Major James A. Raney of the 36th NY resigned after Antietam. Captain Elihu J. Faxon of Company A, age 23, was promoted to Major in his place.

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