Report of, Col. William F. Berens. Sixty-fifth Regiment New York State National Guard,
of operations June 17-July 30, including the Draft Riots.
JUNE 3-AUGUST 1, 1863.--The Gettysburg Campaign.
O.R.-- SERIES I--VOLUME XXVII/2 [S# 44]
BUFFALO, N.Y., January 30, 1864.
GENERAL: I have the honor to submit to you, according to orders from Major-General Randall, my report: of the services of the Sixty-fifth Regiment New York National Guard, during the Pennsylvania campaign, 1863.
According to the best of my knowledge, the Sixty-fifth Regiment of the New York National Guard received orders to march to Harrisburg, in the State of Pennsylvania, on the 17th day of June, 1863, the occasion being the invasion of that State by the rebel General Lee, I was appointed lieutenant-colonel of the regiment on the 18th day of June, and reported on the same evening to Col. Jacob Krettner, commander of the regiment. June 19, at 9 a.m., the regiment marched for Harrisburg, taking (at Buffalo) the cars of the Erie Railway Company. Upon our departure, the regiment contained 382 men. Arrived at Harrisburg on the 20th, in the afternoon, and was ordered to Camp Curtin. Drew [rations] and pitched tents. Quartermaster R. Flack (Sixty-fifth New York National Guard) drew blankets for the men, which came handy, as a heavy rain-storm set in that night. Some of the tents blew down, and although the men generally were wet, they maintained good spirits.
On the 21st of June, the weather broke fine with the morning. The regiment drew their arms, clothing, and camp and garrison equipage, and regular camp guards were established. During the day, Lieutenant [William C.] Zimmerman arrived from Buffalo with 25 additional men who belonged to the regiment.
On the 22d day of June, Colonel Krettner was furloughed on account of sickness, and returned to Buffalo, whereupon I assumed command of the regiment.
June 23, the artillery company belonging to this regiment, Capt. Philip Houck, was attached to the Fourth Regiment New York Artillery, and the day following sent to Fort Washington. The Sixty-fifth, after such detachment, and the Seventy-fourth Regiment New York National Guard, were then formed into a brigade, called the Thirty-first Brigade, New York National Guard, of which Col. Watson A. Fox, of the Seventy-fourth, took command.
June 24, at 8 p.m., the brigade received orders from General Couch to proceed to Mount Union and report to Colonel Hawley. At 9 a.m. the next day the brigade started from Camp Curtin, taking the cars of the Pennsylvania Central Railroad, and arrived at Mount Union at 10 p.m. the same day; reported to Colonel Hawley. My regiment encamped in a stone yard, near a large railroad bridge over the Juni-ara River. I detailed two companies, A and B, with instructions to guard the bridge, and sent out pickets to several important points.
On the 26th, at 3 p.m., I received orders from Colonel Hawley to go out on picket duty at a place called Bell's Mills, 9 miles distant, to guard a mountain pass leading to Black Log and Cumberland Valleys. Leaving Company A, Captain [Conrad] Seeber, and Company B, Capt. L. Krettner, at Mount Union, in company with the Seventy-fourth Regiment, I then proceeded with the rest of my command to Bells Mills, Huntingdon County, arriving there at about dark. I then proceeded to establish pickets at different passes and points, extending 2 or 3 miles through the mountains and forests. A considerable portion of the night was consumed in this way. Upon my arrival at Bell's Mills, I found the inhabitants in great excitement, if not alarm; they were on the point of deserting their homes, and many of them were busily engaged removing their stock and other property. Here our troops received valuable assistance from Mr. David Bell, the proprietor, I believe, of the mills. I was also indebted to him for valuable information concerning the roads and passes. By his activity and influence, the farmers and people of that section were gotten out, and assisted in obstructing the roads and passes by piling logs and felling trees. I continued on this duty with my men till the 5th day of July, when I received orders to report to Colonel Hawley. I returned to Mount Union, and encamped on the ground of the Seventy-fourth, which had left with Colonel Hawley's regiment for Chambersburg. The ensuing day (6th of July), mustered into the United States service for thirty days from June 19 ultimo, and I was appointed commander of the post, with Capt. Horace Thomas as post adjutant.
On the 8th of July, I received orders from Colonel Hawley and Colonel Fox to send them 3,000 rations. I immediately impressed farmers' teams sufficient for the purpose, and started the rations forward. On several different days while at Mount Union, rebel stragglers came within our lines, and were dispatched under guard to headquarters. On the 11th day of July, 350 rebels were brought in by a part of an Ohio regiment: really of them were badly wounded. Our surgeons attended to them, and they were forwarded to headquarters.
At 11 p.m. orders came from General Couch to report with my command at Bridgeport, to General Hall, commanding at Fort Washington. At 7 a.m. next morning took the cars, arriving at Bridgeport at 5 p.m., and reported. I remained with my command at Bridgeport, doing guard duty, till the 14th, at 7 p.m., when I was ordered by General Hall to proceed to the city of New York. By great activity and exertion, a train of cars was gotten together and provided for the next morning. At 4 a.m. July 15, I put my men on board the cars, leaving our camp and garrison equipage at Fort Washington, and arrived at the city of New York at about 5 p.m. Before leaving Fort Washington, a battery of four howitzers, belonging to the Eighth New York National Guard, was attached to my command. On arriving in New York, I immediately marched my command to headquarters, reporting in person to General Wool On the way from the dock, a large mob gathered about, and attempted to get possession of two negroes who were serving as cooks with the artillery company of the Eighth New York National Guard. I protected them from harm by placing them amidst the battery, and protecting the same by a company thrown on either flank.
Upon reporting to General Wool, I was ordered to take quarters at Centre Market, and to report to General Harvey Brown, which I did. Pursuant to orders from General Brown, the same evening I sent two companies to guard the treasury buildings, on Wall street, viz, Company E, Captain [Philip H.] Wagner, and Company H, Captain [Christian] Schaeffer, and two other companies, along with some United States troops, to restore order in the vicinity of Union Square, viz, Company A, Captain Seeber, and Company D, Captain [Charles] Geyer.
On the morning of the l6th of July, pursuant to orders which I had received from General Brown, at 7 o'clock I set out with my companies not theretofore detailed as above set forth, and the howitzers. Passed through to the Hotchkiss shell factory, on Twentyfourth street, and left Company B, Capt. L. Krettner, and one of the howitzers, at that point. I then passed on with the remaining companies of my command and two of the howitzers for my next point of destination, Seward's shell factory, on Seventeenth street. While my men were passing down Seventeenth street, the mob gathered about in a threatening manner, but no violence was committed. At Seward's shell factory, I stationed Company F, Lieutenant [Camper] Meyer commanding, with one of the howitzers. I then passed on up Avenue A, with, Company G, Captain [Casper] Retel, and a howitzer, toward Jackson's shell factory, on Twenty-eighth street, where I was to make my headquarters. On arriving at the corner of Avenue A and Twenty-second street, I was fired into by the mob. I wheeled my men into line to return the fire, and the mob skedaddled. I then passed on a block farther, to the corner of Twenty-third street, when the mob gathered in upon my company from both directions on Twenty-third street, and commenced at once to fire upon us. I returned the fire, and kept up the street, firing, until I arrived a Twenty-eighth street. Finding my small company of only 28 men, besides the men serving the howitzer, too small to disperse so large a mob as had collected, I dispatched Quartermaster Flack to headquarters, on Mulberry street, for re-enforcements. The mob seemed to be very generally armed. I then fought my way through the mob to the factory. One of my men was wounded, and several of the crowd were killed and wounded by our fire. On arriving at the factory, we found the door closed. I forced the door, and took possession.
The mob gathered heavily around the factory and fired upon us. We returned their fire, and afterward sallied out upon them and drove them up Twenty-eighth street, as far as the corner of First avenue, and dispersed them.
At 2 p.m. Quartermaster R. Flack arrived with Companies A and D. At about 5 p.m. a priest came to me as a commissioner from the riotous populace, and urged me to quit the factory and return, stating the people agreed that if I did so the factory should not be injured. He stated further that the crowd threatened that if we did not leave they would burn us out. He implored me to accept the proposal, saying that he feared the worst consequences; that the mob was about 4,000 strong--altogether too large for my weak force to resist--and that he could not control or restrain them. I reported the offer made to me by the priest to General Brown. His answer was, to hold the place at all events, and to disperse the assemblage about me at the point of the bayonet, if necessary. Previous to the receipt of this response from General Brown, however, having refused the offered compromise, and the priest having retired beyond the reach of harm, and the crowd gathering heavily around the building we occupied, I found it necessary to open fire upon them, which was kept up until our assailants were driven back behind the corners of the neighboring streets.
The next morning I received orders from General E. R. S. Canby (General Brown having been relieved by him), notifying me that the large meeting taking place at the residence of Archbishop Hughes was held for the purpose of aiding in the restoration of law and order, and directing that care should be exercised not to molest persons passing to and fro, and to pay no attention to harsh words, only interfering when actual force or violence should occur.
At I o'clock at night I was relieved, by orders from headquarters, by the One hundred and fifty-second Regiment of New York Volunteers.
Saturday, July 18, about 2.30 a.m.. I reported to General Canby, at his headquarters. Quartered my regiment in an empty house and a part in a church near by for the remainder of the night. After daybreak, I sent Companies A and B to the gas-works, near East River.
On the 19th, I reported with my command to His Excellency Governor Seymour.
On the 20th, by order of Governor Seymour, I started with my command for Buffalo, where trouble was apprehended, arriving at that city on Tuesday afternoon, the 21st of July. My regiment was quartered in the New York State arsenal in Buffalo, my men remaining under arms and in the United States service till the 30th day of July, when the regiment was mustered out of the United States service.
I cannot omit to praise the promptness of the New York Central Railroad Company in forwarding us comfortably and rapidly through to the city of Buffalo, and to acknowledge the kindness with which we were received by the common council and citizens of Buffalo upon our arrival.
WILLIAM F. BERENS,
Col., Comdg. 65th Regt. New York State National Guard.
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