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The 60th New York Infantry in Howard County

Service at Relay House, 11/9/1861-6/1862

Primary Sources
Archival and Secondary Sources

The 60th New York Infantry was mustered into the Union army in late October of 1861 in St. Lawrence County, on the banks of the St. Lawrence Seaway. The majority of men in the unit were from St. Lawrence County, but men from all three of the northernmost counties of New York were represented. Like many other newly formed units, the 60th was detailed for guard duty rather than combat. The 60th was assigned to General John A. Dix's Division after mustering in, and left for Baltimore to join the Railroad Brigade, tasked with guarding important railroad sites between Baltimore and Washington, D. C.

Travelling to New York City on steamers and barges, they were greeted by crowds at every stop - and in between. In New York City, they marched in a parade and received ceremonial flags. Then by railroad to Jersey City and Philadelphia, and then finally through Baltimore to Washington, D. C., where they camped on Kalorama Heights, three miles from the city. A week later, the regiment moved back north to the Relay House, in present day Elkridge, Md.

Historians researching the 60th New York are particularly thankful that their chaplain was a man named Richard Eddy. Eddy went on to be a well-known clergyman and wrote several books on Universalism. He wrote regular letters to home town newspaper, the St. Lawrence Republican throughout the War, and after the War wrote a history of the 60th New York.

In his first letter to the Republican he describes joining the regiment in Washington and describes their duty guarding the Railroad, bridges, and mills outside of Baltimore. He tells this interesting story:

“Our camp has been over run with peddlers, some of whom would not only like to take our money, but also our lives. This morning as one of the men was about preparing to cook a cabbage, he had bought of our visitors, he noticed that a portion of the pith had been cut out, and some black powder-like substance had been inserted, and the plug again nicely fitted to its place. Dr. Gale gave it as his opinion that judging from appearance, the foreign substance was Cobolt. It was sent to the city to be analyzed. Shortly after another vegetable of the same sort was found infected in the same way, whereupon an awful decimation of Cabbage heads ensued. They were terribly cut up and scattered.”

Fear of poisoning by the local “Secesh”, as the pro-Southern locals were called, was rampant in the Northern troops. Other units nearby report attempts to poison the soldiers as well. In addition, soldiers were regularly shot at while standing guard.

Eddy also describes a horrific injury suffered by William H. McDonald, of Brasher, NY. McDonald made the mistake of lying down on the railroad tracks where he soon fell asleep. Unfortunately a train came by and mangled his right foot, which had to be amputated. Injuries such as these were fairly common in the camps.

A few weeks later, growing discontent among the officers of the unit towards the conduct of their Colonel, William B. Hayward, boiled over. A letter was sent to Hayward, signed by every Captain and Lieutenant in the unit, asking the Colonel to resign as commander of the 60th New York. The letter stated: “You, Colonel, have shown a want of coolness and discretion, and excitability and irritability, a disregard for the comfort and welfare of the men, and an utter want of humanity, which combined with your overbearing conduct, and lack of common courtesy to the men and officers, is the immediate cause of all this dissatisfaction and discouragement.” This dissatisfaction would eventually lead to Hayward's resignation on January 1st.

A correspondent to the Advance, newspaper, who signed his letters as “X”, detailed the far-flung nature of the 60th's duty. “Co. F… is now stationed some four miles below the Relay House; Co. A…a mile or two nearer Baltimore; Co. H… near the Viaduct Bridge; Co. D…at the Mount Clare Freight Station, in the city; Co. C…near the Camden Passenger Station, in the city; and Co. I…at the Locust Point Freight Depot. A part of Captain Day's company (B) are at Ellicott's Mills, above the Relay House. The remainder of Company B, and Companies G…E…and K… are at “Camp Rathbone,” a little beyond the Viaduct Bridge.” “X” also describes several soldiers sick with measles, which would soon become rampant. Henry W. Powers, of Russell, N. Y., a drummer in Company C, died.

On December 5th the men were paid off. $15,000 was paid to the Regiment, a majority of the money was immediately sent home. A sum of $460 was given to the Regimental Band, with a promise of $500 more, so they could purchase instruments. Aaron Geer of Company D died of typhoid fever and was buried in Loudon Cemetery.

A few weeks later, a member of Company B accidentally shot a solder of the Maryland Home Guard. The men were “playfully encountering each other” when they pointed their guns at each other and pulled the trigger. The Home Guardman's rifle was unloaded - the New Yorker's was not. The member of the Home Guard died a few hours later, after absolving the other soldier. Henry W. Dunn, of Company C, died of fever. An unsigned letter in the Courier and Freeman, of December 18, 1861, counts fifteen to twenty cases of measles in the camp, and says the malady is gradually increasing.

“A RUSSELL VOLUNTEER”, writing the The Advance, describes the men's rations. “We have bread, beef, pork, beans, potatoes, rice, “Hominy!”, sugar, coffee, and, last, though not least - tea. Our bread is the Baltimore aerated, unfermented article, and is the best bread I ever saw”…“ He also described his duty: ”…our task is arduous, standing on post every other day four hours on and eight hours off, for twenty-four hours.“ Mortimer Stevens, of Company F, died and his body was shipped home. Samuel P. Melvin, of Company E, died December 19th.

More disasters occurred in December. Private W. H. Morgan was shot and lost two fingers on his right hand. Private Edwin T. Porter was run over by a train, apparently while sleeping on the tracks. At the end of the month Holley Meacham (or Meachand), of Company K, died of Typhoid and was buried. Louis Dussie (or Dupra), of Company A, died of measles. Both men were buried in Loudon Cemetery.

Colonel Hayward's resignation on January 1, 1862 sent a thrill through the Regiment. Though acknowledging that Hayward did his best for the Regiment and was following proper orders, Eddy was nonetheless happy with his dismissal. “SKID”, writing to the Advance, described the moment the Regiment heard the news:

“At an early hour this morning as the different companies were drawn up for inspection, they were told that their Colonel's resignation, had been accepted, and he, Col. W. B. Hayward had been discharged from the service in Uncle Sam's Army. At this announcement of good news, there arose three of the heartiest cheers and a tiger, that has been given since we left Camp Wheeler.”

By early January the men of the 60th had just about finished building their winter barracks in various locations. Guard duty continued through January, as did the occasional death. John Forward, of Company F, was hit by a train, but survived with minor injuries. Lieutenant Colonel Goodrich took over for Hayward.

A humorous event occurred in January. A soldier on guard was approached in the dark; he was told to halt several times and, failing to do so, was shot by the picket. Upon investigation it was found that the guard had shot a wandering bull-calf. The soldier was kidded about the event the next day.

More deaths were still to come. Ozro C. Dunton died at the end of January. A few days later Edmund Mason died of “Congestion of the brain.” Both were were members of Company K. However, the health of the Regiment was improving, and few men were in the local hospitals. Snow fell in February and turned the camp streets into mud.

Idle hands are the devil's plaything, and the 60th was no exception. A General Court Martial was called in late February to hand out punishment to wrongdoers. Eddy describes three charges, without naming the men. One was for “Drunkeness when upon post as a Sentinel, profane and disrespectful language to his superior officer, and riotous conduct.” The soldier was sentenced to loss of pay and a dishonorable discharge. The second soldier was found guilty of “mutinous conduct” and was dishonorably discharged and sentenced to hard labor in prison for two years. A third man, from Company D, was convicted of being absent without leave, “conduct subversive to military discipline, contemptuous and disrespectful language to his superior officer, violation of ninth article of war, and conduct prejudicial to good order and military discipline.” In addition to a loss of pay, a dishonorable discharge, and prison time, the solder was was ordered to wear a twelve pound ball and chain for twelve months during his incarceration.

Eddy, a chaplain, attributed these offenses to rum drinking. “Our guard house would be all empty if it was not for intoxicating drinks, but I am pained to write that more men will in all probability be ruined by liquor while engaged in this war, than will be maimed or killed by powder and ball.”

By March, rumors of an upcoming move had started. Men were still dying, Lieutenant H. C. Eastman, of Company K, died of typhoid. A new Colonel was appointed, Geo. S. Greene. Initial suspicion was soon replaced by respect, as the men got to know their new leader. Guard duty continued, and companies were moved around regularly along the railroad. Their new Colonel received a promotion and Goodrich became Colonel of the 60th.

In May the Regiment finally got their orders to move out. Six companies started for Harper's Ferry. There they met soldiers returning from battle “with horrid tales of the defeat of our men and the cruelties of the rebels to our sick, wounded and prisoners…” The 60th New York Infantry was finally going to War. They would eventually fight at 2nd Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg, before moving West and participating in Sherman's March to the Sea.

Recruiting Locations
Company A - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County
Company B - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County
Company C - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County
Company D - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County
Company E - principally recruited in Franklin County
Company F - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County
Company G - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County
Company H - principally recruited in Clinton County and St. Lawrence County
Company I - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County
Company K - principally recruited in St. Lawrence County

units/60th_new_york_infantry.txt · Last modified: 2019/06/21 17:27 by admin