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The 109th New York Infantry in Howard County

Service in various locations - Laurel, Savage, Beltsville, and Annapolis Junction, 9/8/1862-3/1864. Most of the unit moved to Washington, D. C. in October of 1863. Two companies remained to guard the railroad until approximately March of 1864.

Primary Sources
Archival and Secondary Sources

The 109th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, also known as the Binghamton Regiment, was principally recruited from three south-central New York counties, Broome, Tioga, and Tompkins. These counties contain the cities of Binghamton, Owego, and Ithaca. Mustered in for a three year enlistment on August 27, 1862, they journeyed to Baltimore, Maryland and soon found themselves scattered across several locations between Washington, D. C. and Annapolis, Junction, a vital rail station approximately half-way between the nation's capital and Baltimore.

On August 29th and 30th the Second Battle of Bull Run occurred in Northern Virginia. Two weeks later the Confederacy invaded Maryland on the Antietam Campaign. “H”, writing to the Buffalo Express, on September 7th reports: “Rumor has it that Stonewall Jackson has crossed the Potomac with 500, 5,000, or 50,000 men, or an other indefinite number, that McClellan or somebody else has gone up to bag him, or, perhaps, only “drive him to the wall;” and that they are fighting to-day somewhere near Frederick.”

Closer to the 109th, “H” reports “the New York Herald has it that the plan of the rebels is to attack this railroad at Savage Factory (where there is no railroad within four miles), meaning, I presume, Savage Switch, which is one and a half miles from here, and is guarded by a detachment of our men.”

In response to this possible invasion, “H”, probably an officer in the 109th, was put to work riding across the country, mapping the topography. On September 8th he rode out from Annapolis Junction, through Savage Switch (no Stonewall Jackson here), to Laurel and seven miles up the “Brookville Road” towards Frederick. They returned via the Columbia turnpike (present day Route 29), having covered more than 20 miles. Upon their return, more rumors that the Relay House, several miles to the north, had been taken, but the rumors proved untrue. The next day, “H” rode north towards Baltimore, again mapping the terrain. All was quiet.

Camping at Annapolis Junction, with little in the way of comfort, immediately began to weigh on the morale of the unit. Later in September, “H” wrote:

“Bah! what a night it is. Dreary chill, with a misting rain from the northeast. Everything is humid. My clothes are damp, the earth-floor of my tent ditto, the paper on which I write is limp with moisture, and the wretched sheepskin on which the drummer is at this moment hitting “Taps,” sounds as if somebody has squirted water into the air-hole.”

Opinions of their duty were divided within the camp. Some were discouraged, saying they had come to fight and not guard the railroad, while others saw the necessity of drilling and practicing maneuvers. However, the regiment, currently divided into six different detachments, guarding different places along the railroad, was too separated to drill properly.

“H” soon began to tolerate and even enjoy the experience. In October he wrote:

“Do you know what comfort is? If not, just look into my tent this evening. The air is chill without, yet within cheerful, invigoratng and pleasant under the light of a moon nearly full. Inside a glorious fire is glowing in my under ground fire place, lighting up my canvas dwelling and giving it a home-like warmth.”

“H” share his space with one other soldier, each sleeping in their own bunk bed.

The 109th continued to drill and guard the rail road. Their commander, Benjamin F. Tracy, a lawyer in his previous life, was well-liked by the men and was soon promoted to command of the entire Brigade. The men remained in good health through September and October. Colder weather in November brought more sickness to the men. In mid-November they received 5-6 inches of snow. “W”, writing to the Union News details the poor health of Company H, stationed at Beltsville:

“The health of our Regiment I am sorry to say is not very good. I believe Company H reports 11 in the Hospital, and 13 in quarters, I presume the remainder of the Companies are the same, or more. We have comfortable quarters for sick, which consists of a dwelling house and a small church, both of which are full of the good things we are furnished with.”

Picket duty, drill, camp. This was the life of the 109th for the remainder of 1862 and into 1863. Writing from Savage Station on New Years' Day, 1863, “FRANK” delighted in his position:

“DEAR FATHER - As it has pleased God to spare your patriotic sun to see the light of a bridge and beautiful New Years' morning, I, with thankfulness to Him for the preservation of my life, will devote a few moments in addressing a few thoughts to my ever happy home.

As I arose just at the brake of day, and walked down to the little Creek which runs gently by our little Camp, I was struck with the beauty of the morning. The air was very quiet but cold - the dry leaves were hanging motionless on the tall trees - the sun, though not yet risen, was casting its bright red streaks on the beautiful blue sky, which was as clear as the noon-day sun shining on the ripling waters, presented a beautiful scene…”

Things were not as good in Company A, station at Laurel. Two non-commissioned officers, Henry Krum and Don Cutler, were reduced to the rank of private for overstaying a furlough. Several other soldiers also deserted, but did not return. Relations with the local citizens had also degraded. Private William De Bell wrote: “The Rebel inhabitants arround here are getting pretty bold. evry time that they catch one of our soldiers in their Village drunk they pile on them & give them a level of a pounding…it is getting so that it is unsafe for a soldier to walk the streets alone at night…”

A few months later, Private William H. Cole, of Company K, was involved in a serious incident in Laurel. He was accused of raping a fify-five year old woman named Alvisa [or Olivia] Brown. [Census records indicate Nicholas and Olivia Brown were living in Elk Ridge Landing in 1860. Her age at that time was listed as 47 years old.] Cole denied the accusations, but he stated he was drunk and did not remember the incident. Four fellow soldiers of Cole wrote an affidavit in support of him, stating in part ““We each of us further depose that we are satisfied that the said Alvisa and the said Ellen are lewd women and that the said Nicholas Brown is cognizant of the fact that they keep a bawdy house.” The Ellen Brown mentioned by the soldiers was approximately 16 years old in 1863.

Cole was found guilty and sentenced to forfeit all pay and be confined at hard labor for ten years. In 1864, President Lincoln pardoned the soldier following the receipt of several petitions and letters in Cole's behalf.

Still the unit chafed under their guard duty. Writing from Annapolis Junction on February 25th, 1863, Tom Hutton stated: “It really is too bad that a Regiment of one thousand and twenty men, is compelled to remain on this miserable Railroad doing “guard duty”, and basking in the sun…” He goes on to state: “I enlisted because I thought it my duty. I came here to assist in crushing out this wicked, wanton and causeless rebellion, to reestablish the Union and protect our hallowed flag, now polluted by imbecility and treason.”

Duty along the railroad continued throughout the spring and summer of 1863. In late August “O. S.” exclaimed: “The time has passed rapidly by and we can hardly bring ourselves to think that our Regiment has passed twelve months in the service, during which time there have been many battles fought, even within hearing of our camp, and we have not, as yet, seen a Rebel.”

In October eight companies of the 109th received orders and were moved to Mason's Island, opposite Georgetown in Washington, D. C. Two companies remained on guard along the railroad. Portions of the unit would go on to serve escorting newly formed regiments to the front. Finally, in the spring of 1864, the men of the 109th got their wish, they were assigned to the 9th Corps and participated in the Battles of the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and Petersburg. The Regiment lost over 300 men during it's service for the Union.

Company A - principally recruited from Newfield, Caroline and Danby, all of Tompkins County
Company B - principally recruited from Candor, Richford, Newark, Berkshire, Owego, all of Tioga County and Caroline, Tompkins County
Company C - principally recruited from Owego and Candor, Tioga County
Company D - principally recruited from Binghamton, Broome County
Company E - principally recruited Binghamton, Chenango and Sanford, all of Broome County
Company F - principally recruited from Dryden and Groton, Tompkins County
Company G - principally recruited from Trumansburg, Enfield, Lansing, Jacksonville and Ulysses, all of Tompkins County
Company H - principally recruited from Owego, Tioga County and Binghamton, Broome County
Company I - principally recruited from Smithsboro, Tioga Center, Waverly and Spencer, all of Tioga County
Company K - principally recruited from Nichols, Candor and Owego, all of Tioga County

109th_new_york_volunteer_infantry.txt · Last modified: 2019/06/21 17:21 by admin