Editor’s Note: In the mid-1940’s the Baldwinsville (NY) Messenger reprinted a lengthy series of articles on the 185th New York and other New York Civil War units from 50 years earlier, originally published in the Baldwinsville Gazette, which detailed the history of the town of Lysander, New York. This article is one part of a sub-series in this set detailing the 185th New York and its experiences at the Siege of Petersburg. I found these articles while searching through the always fascinating Fulton NY Postcards site. This article was transcribed by Jackie Martin.
Augustus M. Rice, the original author, was a member of Company A, 185th New York. Rice enlisted at the age of 18 as a private on August 22, 1864 in Lysander, to serve for one year. He was mustered into Company A on September 19, 1864 and was discharged on June 3, 1865 in Washington, D. C.1
HISTORICAL REVIEW OF THE TOWN OF LYSANDER
Part 197: Story of 185th [New York] Regiment Recorded By Mr. Mrs. Rice 50 Years Ago
By Miss L. Pearl Palmer
The tiny temporary recruiting office located at the Four Corners in Baldwinsville in 1864, was to open a new world for the 16-year-old lad who years later, as a veteran of the 185th [New York], fourth and last Onondaga regiment to be raised, was to relate the experiences of his company to his wife who wrote the entire story for publication. County histories must of necessity be brief. Consequently the record compiled by Mr. and Mrs. Augustus M. Rice some 50 years ago and printed in the [Baldwinsville] Gazette at that time, is the most detailed account so far discovered by the writer of the Lysander Review. It reads:
Monday morning. August 22, 1864. Frederick A. Bently and I took the morning train at Lamson for Baldwinsville, with the intention of enlisting. Luther E. Dunham and Francis M. Butler, who had previously enlisted, accompanied us. Arriving at the village, we went directly to the recruiting office. This was located at the corner of Bridge and Canal streets, built of matched pine boards and eight or ten feet square. A desk of pine, a United States flag floating above it comprised the equipment.
The recruiting officers were Stephen O. Howard, D. C. Toll, assisted by Ephraim F. Bauder, W. A. Brooks and others. We were met by W. A. Brooks who enrolled us into the United States service. Then we went across the street to the First National Bank and were sworn into the State service by P. Lawrence Perine, cashier at the bank. Enlistments were rapidly made and in a short time 140 men were enrolled.
During our stay in Baldwinsville we were furnished rations by Charles Bronson, at that time landlord at the old American hotel.
About September first, we went into quarters at Camp Monroe, now Tallman Park, Syracuse. This was really the beginning of our army life. We were issued new clothing, and during our stay here our time was occupied in drilling, with games for pastime.
On September 22 , we were mustered into the U. S. service as Company A, 185th New York State volunteers. According to the rules and regulations of the army, the number of men for a company was limited to 100. Consequently, the remainder of our recruits were consigned to Companies Y and H. [Lieutenant] Colonel [Gustavus A.] Sniper, with William Gilbert, had been made general superintendent and given full power by the war committee to organize the regiment. Later Colonel Sniper received his commission from Governor Seymour by telegraph, and on Thursday morning, September 23, we broke camp and marched to the Delaware and Lackawanna depot, where we took the train for New York city.
We arrived at Binghamton about 5 o’clock. Rations were issued to us on the train. The cars occupied by our company were common flat cars next to the engine, and the boys suffered severely from the soot and cinders. One of the boys lost the sight of one eye, and at this point Company A refused to ride in open cars any longer. For lack of transportation we stayed in Binghamton that night. Not until Saturday night [September 25, 1864] did we reach Jersey City, where we remained until Sunday morning [September 26, 1864] when we ferried to New York city and went to camp in Battery Park.
Finally, after drawing our arms and quartermaster stores, we embarked on board the steamship Argo for City Point, by way of Fortress Monroe. From my position perched on the wheelhouse, I took in all the magnificent sights as the Argo steamed down New York Bay, past Ft. Washington, Ft. Hamilton, the Russian Fleet, the grim old war vessels and out upon the broad expanse of the Atlantic.
We arrived at Fortress Monroe late at night and next morning we transferred to the river transports. Fortress Monroe is one of the largest forts in the United States. Here we saw the wreck of the Cumberland, her spars still showing above the water where she had sunk.2
We reached City Point, the main depot for supplies of the army of the Potomac, on the afternoon of September 30. Here we disembarked and marched to a rise of ground near the Point to go into camp. Settling in camp was an easy job, since as yet we had drawn no tents. About midnight we were awakened and ordered to pack our knapsacks in readiness for moving, at a moment’s warning. Soon the command was given to fall in, and march to Grant’s military railroad. Here we were loaded onto flat cars, and started for the front, but after a ride of a short distance, we were side tracked to wait for a down train which proved to be a load of wounded. After the track was cleared we ran on to Mead[e]’s station, the extreme end of the road, where we were within hearing of the heavy firing which was going on at Poplar Grove Church [on October 1, 1864].3 A train which began at daylight continued on throughout the day.
(to be continued)4
The Baldwinsville NY Messenger 185th New York Series, 1945:
- NP: October 25, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 2
- NP: November 22, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 3
- NP: November 29, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 4
- NP: December 6, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 5
- December 13, 1945 Baldwinsville NY Messenger: 185th New York at Petersburg, Part 6
- 185th Infantry CW Roster. The NY Military Museum and Veterans Research Center, 17 Feb. 2010. Web. 26 July 2016. Accessed Augustus M. Rice entry from the 185th New York Roster. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The Cumberland, of course, had been sunk during McClellan’s Peninsula Campaign of 1862, victim of the then brand new Confederate ironclad Virginia, formerly the USS Merrimack. ↩
- SOPO Editor’s Note: The 185th New York had been sent to reinforce Crawford’s Division, Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac, and heard part of the fighting from the multi-day Battle of Peebles Farm of Poplar Springs Church. ↩
- “Historical Review of the Town of Lysander.” Baldwinsville Messenger. October 4, 1945, p. 4, col. 2-5 ↩