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David Terwilliger

85th New York Infantry, Company D

by Ruth Thoden

Born September 25, 1833 in Guilford, Chenango Co., NY, David Terwilliger migrated as a young child in 1835 to Allegany County with his parents, Levi Terwilliger and Susan Odell.  They settled in West Almond but soon to live in new home in Birdsall built by his father.

A farmer's son, David as a youth growing up dreamed of owning his own farm, having a family.  At the age of 28, he decided, like his brother Benniah, to leave home "long enough to answer President Lincoln's 'Call to Arms.' "  The Fall harvest was complete and surely in three months time, the Rebellion would be put down and they would be home in time for Spring planting.  On October 14, 1861, both men reported to Elmira to be enrolled a privates in the 85th New York State Volunteer Regiment.

It must have seemed somewhat like a family reunion, for leaving Elmira and headed for Washington City" were several "kinfolks."  Their cousin Cyrus Terwilliger's two sons, Josiah E., who was assigned to Co D, to become a lieutenant later in War and Tom were in Elmira and their own brother-in-law, Asa Davis, married to their sister Esther Ann, was there. Bill Young, a next door neighbor's son was there. Tom, Asa and the Terwilliger brothers, Benniah and David, also were assigned to Co. D of the 85th.

The 85th was made of of men from Allegany County, plus Cattaraugus, Seneca and Ontario. The regiment was composed of men whose hearts were fired with patriotism.  The Regiment left Elmira on December 13, 1861 with orders to reach "Washington City" by the morning of December 5, 1861.  The night of the 6th they camped at Bladenburgh, Maryland and found the "romance" of the soldier's life had become a cold reality as without even straw to make the frozen ground tolerable on their "tented field."

By December 19, the 85th had moved to Meridian Mill, aptly called in one soldier's diary, "Mud Camp." Meridian Hill looked down on the city of Washington. Here the winter was spent with an occasional "rumor" that General Burnside was about to issue orders for an expedition to "rout the Rebs."

On the evening of March 14, 1962, David's brother, Benniah, wrote home to their sister, Mary Elizabeth, predicting that a major move would occur at "any minutes notice."

On the 28th of March, 1862, trunks, boxes and valises were packed and stored in government warehouse for the "holliday trip to Richmond."   On the 31st of March, an integral portion of the Army of the Potomac moved down the river their future unknown.  As they marched, they could hear strains of "Hail Columbia" and as they traveled by the home of the "Father of their Country," the band of the 85th struck up the "Star Spangled Banner."

By the morning of April 1, 1862, they had arrived at Fortress Monroe, Virginia and that evening camped 6 miles from there on road to Newport News, Virginia.  Here they encountered the swamp like conditions causing the deadly malaria which contributed more to demise of the soldier than did battles of war.

At Lee's Mills, Va, on April 22, 1862, they learned the Rebel lines extended from Yorktown to the James River.  Here the malarial influences were felt from the Warwick and Chickahominy Swamps and many were forced to retreat accepting disability discharges. Sanitary hospital conditions were impossible with supplies having to be shipped across the peninsula over roads that were nearly impassable; the sick could not be moved.  Log huts covered with pine boughs were improvised to serve as "hospitals."  Barrel staves which had contained hard tack and salt jenk were used as "beds."

David was assigned to duty as hospital corpman....what unpleasant duty he had to see his friends, some new, some old suffer in thee conditions, helpless to relieve them of their sufferings.

About a month after landing at Fortress Monroe, on May 2, the 85th Regiment broke camp in pursuit of the Rebels who were embedded at Yorktown.  By now, 97 of the recruits of the 85th had been buried in Virginia soil or left in hospitals.

David participated in the Battle of Plymouth in which the entire 85th Regiment was killed or taken prisoner.  David was among those making the March to Georgia to the horrendous Andersonville Prison.

Although a tombstone and burial record appears in archives of "Til Day Dawns" Cemetery in Angelica, Allegany Co, NY.  David's body was interred in Macon County, Georgia.

From Andersonville Prisoner Lookup Results on Internet: Macon County, Georgia, Andersonville Prisoner Profile Code No. 16445 Grave No. 6445

From the Genesee Valley Lee Press (no dated noted) = David R. Terwilliger, Co. D, 85th, died at Andersonville, Georgia.

*Some of what is written here was taken from "Plymouth Pilgrims" - a history of the NYS 85th Regiment.

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Created on ... July 27, 2006

© Vivian Karen Bush 2006
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