CHAPTER X

The Buffalo Guard

WAR YEARS AND RECOVERY

The struggle for the preservation of the Union in 1861-5 determined largely the currents of public thought in local as well as national affairs, not only while it was going on, but for many years afterward. Normal attention to administrative and legislative problems did not again become uppermost until the rise of Mr. Cleveland, who made Buffalo for the second time a source of national leadership.

FIRST TO GO

Military preparedness was at a very low stage in this country when the Civil war began. In New York the ancient practice which organized the entire population into regiments to submit to general training once a year had been displaced in 1847 by a law that provided for a smaller number of uniformed regiments and more systematic drill and discipline. In Buffalo the 65th regiment was formed under the new plan in 1848. The towns of Erie county, with contingents from Wyoming, maintained the 67th regiment, and in the Niagara-county area was the 66th. The 74th was organized here in 1854. The City Guard, which sprang up at the time of the Canadian rebellion in 1837, had been maintained at varying strength, but most of its companies became incorporated in the 65th. The National Guard, under that name, did not come into existence until 1862.

The highest ranking officer in the city in 1861 was Brig. Gen. Gustavus A. Scroggs, who had gone through various grades in the 65th to the colonelcy and had been promoted to the command of the 31st brigade. In private life he was a lawyer, and he recently had been elected sheriff.

The 65th at that time was commanded by Col. Jacob Krettner; the 74th by Col. Watson A. Fox; the 67th by Col. Chauncey Abbott, and the 66th by Col. Dudley Donnelly.

As the President's call had been-for State militia, it was expected that the existing regiments would be summoned, and all were held in readiness. The 74th actually received an order to move to Elmira on May Ist, but three days before that date the eager men were disappointed by a countermand. The authorities had decided that enough militia had reached Washington, but the call came for 21 new regiments from this State for two years' service.

 

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The four companies which had been recruited under the stimulus of the mass meetings and general enthusiasm promptly offered themselves, were accepted and were ordered to start for Elmira on May 3d.

Their departure brought another great display of patriotic spirit. "Never before have we seen the streets so gay with flags," said the Express. A flag was presented ceremoniously to the volunteers by the girls of Central High School. Bands played. Men cheered. Women wept.

Eight days later the scene was repeated. Old and new members of the 74th, who had expected to go under the militia call, reorganized as volunteers for two years, forming six companies under Capt. James C. Strong, Capt. George DeWitt Clinton, Capt. William F. Rogers, Capt. Edward L. Lee, Capt. William C. Alberger and Capt. Henry M. Gaylord. They entrained on May 11th, escorted through the streets, like their predecessors, by Mr. Fillmore's Union Continentals, and cheered by the entire populace.

Back in Buffalo energetic recruiting was continued to refill the depleted ranks of the militia regiments. A recruiting office for regulars was opened under Capt. William P. Carlin. Home guard companies were formed. Independent companies began to enroll under various leaders.

SERVICE OF THE HOME MILITIA

The details of the organization and records of the contingents which entered United States service from this territory during the war will be given elsewhere. To the people at home the period was a time of incessant recruiting, of feverish excitement, of cheering the departure of units, of anxious waiting for news and of patriotic efforts to assist in furnishing supplies and hospital care. The total number of men recruited in Erie county was 15,249; casualties, 4,704. Niagara county sent 4.,587.

The war did not approach this part of the country near enough to require measures of home defense until Gen. Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania in 1863. That led to orders placing the entire National Guard of New York in the field. These local militia regiments were from the beginning of the war a fine source of supply for officers, non-commissioned officers and recruits. Their ranks were drained constantly by the departure of men who volunteered for the front. Nevertheless, the organizations were maintained, though made up, as stated by Col. Fox, "for the most part of middle-aged and young men, engaged in active business pursuits," to whom a call to the field meant personal sacrifices not easily estimated. Nevertheless, these were made cheerfully "from conviction of duty." The militia were a part of the available man power for which use could be found in the pressing emergency that preceded Gettysburg.

The 74th and 65th regiments entrained for Harrisburg, Pa., on June 19, 1863. The 74th marched with 374 officers and men under Col. Watson A. Fox. The 65th mustered 382 men under Col. Jacob Krettner. Within a few days, however, this officer was furloughed on account of illness and the 65th thereafter was led by Col. William F. Berens.

The 67th regiment from the south towns, under Col. Chauncey Abbott, also went to Harrisburg, where it was in service about 30 days....

-Excerpted from: Wilner, Merton M. Niagara Frontier, A Narrative and Documentary History. The S.J. Clarke Publishing Company. Chicago. 1931. Vol I. p. 449.

 

 

 

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