HISTORY OF THE EIGHTY-FIRST REGIMENT

      The disastrous battle of Bull Run opened the eyes of the north, and it was clearly seen that probably a prolonged war was begun.   Under authority of acts of May 3rd, July 22nd and July 25, 1861, 500,000 volunteers had been called for terms varying from six months to three years, under which calls New York State sent about 31,000 for two years about 90,000 for three years. The call of  May and July let to the adoption of second measures for raising a  second regiment in Oswego county. On the 29th of August 1861, a meeting was held in Doolittle Hall, over which E.B. Talcott presided. William Duer was the principal speaker, and the  immediate raising of another regiment was determined upon. The work of recruiting began at once and was pushed rapidly forward.  On the 14th of September Co. A, Captain Raulston, was mustered in at Fort Ontario and seven others followed on the 17th, of which  A, B, C, and D companies were from Oswego city. Co. I, from Gilbertsville; Co F, from Fulton; Co G from Syracuse; and Co H. from Hannibal. The ninth company was mustered in October 1, from the town of Oswego. In January 1862, the tenth company was furnished from the town of Hastings. But, the regiment was not yet filled, and owing to some internal disagreements recruiting proceed slowly. On the 20th of January 1862, the regiment under command of Colonel Rose, a West Point graduate, was sent to Albany, where it received about 350 men from Oneida County. This fill the ranks.  As finally arranged the filed and staff officers were as follows:

      Colonel Edwin Rose; Lieutenant colonel, Jacob J. DeForest; Major, John McAmbely; Surgeon, William H. Rice; Assistant Surgeon, Carrington Macfalane; Adjutant, Edward A. Cooke; Quartermaster, Roger A.Francis; Chaplain, David McFarland; Sergeant Major, James L. Belden; Commissary Sergeant, H.H. Green Quartermaster, Sergeant, John F. Young; Hospital Steward, C.S. Hart; Drum Major W.S. Winters.

 Line Officers

Co. A:-  Captain, William C Raulston; First Lieutenant, Hamilton Littlefield Jr.: Second Lieutenant, Elias A. Fish.
Co. B:- Captain, Augustus G. Bennett; First Lieutenant, Hugh Anderson; Second Lieutenant, Martin J. DeForest.
Co. C:-  Captain, Franklin Hannahs; First Lieutenant, Orin J. Fitch; Second Lieutenant, Seth J. Steves.
Co. D:- Captain, L.C. Adkins; First Lieutenant, Orin J. Fitch; Second Lieutenant, R.D.S. Tyler
Co. E:-  Captain, Lyman M. Kingnan; First Lieutenant, W.C. Newberry; Second Lieutenant D.G. Harris
Co.F:-   Captain, T. Dwigh; First Lieutenant, Edward S. Cooke; Second Lieutenant, D.C. Rix.
Co. G:-  Captain, Henry C. Thompson; First Lieutenant, Henry H. Hamilton; Second Lieutenant, H.W. Green. 
Co.H:-  Captain, John B. Ralston; First Lieutenant, John W. Oliver:  Second Lieutenant: Peter French.
Co. I:-   Captain D B White; First Lieutenant, Willard W. Ballard;  Second Lieutenant; B.F.Wood.
Co.K:-   Captain J. Dorman Steele; First Lieutenant, George W. Berriman; Second Lieutenant; L.J. Steele. 

      On the 21st of February the regiment was ordered to New York City, whence they proceeded on they proceed on the 5th of March to Washington, DC. There the men remained in camp twenty days, and on the 28th of March, marched to Alexandria Va., whence they embarked for Fortress Monroe, arriving on the 1st of April. From this date until May 31st the regiment was on the march or in camp, acting  as reserve at the battle of Williamsburg Va., and reaching Seven Pines on the 28th, where they remained until the bloody engagement of  the 31st was fought. In this battle the 81st was assigned to the left of Casey’s Division, unsupported in an open field. The regiment here underwent its baptism of fire and stood the ordeal heroically. 

      Lieutenant-Colonel De Forest was shot in the breast; Major McAmbley and Captain Kingman , with many privates, were killed and left on the field. The regiment passed to the command of Capt. William C. Raulston. Darkness ended the battle and the menslept on their arms. The next day was spent in burying the dead, and on the 2nd of June McClellan issued an address to the army, to inspire the troops with courage for the decisive battle which he said was at hand. The 81st marched to White Oak Swamp; went into camp and remained until the 28th; where they were joined by Colonel Rose, who had been absent a month on account of sickness.  On the morning of the 30th a weary march was made to Malvern Hill. July 1st the regiment was assigned to the reserve corps and on the following day started for Harrison’s Landing. On the 8th they encamped near the James River, remaining thirty-nine days, and while here Colonel Rose resigned and the command devolved upon Major Raulston.  On the 16th of August the regiment started the march that took them  in the ensuing few days to Yorktown, Va., where they went into camp and remained until the last of December. On the 29th of December they left Yorktown, Va. For North Carolina, and the following three months were passed mostly in camp at Caroline City and St. Helena Island, NC. On that vicinity a month more was spent in rapid changes of position, bring then to Morehead City, NC. On the 2nd of May 1863.

      At this time Major D.B. White, with CO’s B, D, and G, was ordered 
to Fort Macon to perform garrison duty. Captain Ballard, with CO’s E, K, and I was assigned to the provost guard at Beaufort, NC. and the remaining four, CO’s  A,L,F, and H, remained at Morehead City, NC., as headquarters, under command of Lieutenant-Colonel Raulston. Several important raids were made from this point during the next few months. 

      On the 18th of October the regiment embarked for Newport News, Va., where they encamped on the same ground occupied by them in April 1862. They remained here a month and then went to Northwest Landing about twenty-five miles from Norfolk, Va.

      January 1st, 1864, the men who had less than one year to serve were given the opportunity to enlist for three years and take a furlough of  thirty days. On the 23rd of February more than two-thirds of the entire regiment had re-enlisted, and they started for home, reaching New York on the 29th of February. In Syracuse the veterans were met by a delegation, were breakfasted, and at four o’clock reached Oswego, NY. Marching to
Doolittle Hall, they were received and banqueted by the ladies of the city
and given a royal welcome by all.

      The 81st, again left for the front on the 12th of April 1864, and arrived at Yorktown, Va., on the 18th. Here they were assigned to the First Brigade, First Division, Eighteenth Corps of the Army of the James. May 4th they proceeded to Bermuda Hundred, whence they march six miles from the landing and began the construction of fortifications. On the 9th, while deployed as skirmishers, they net the troops of Beauregard and drove them from the field. During the following month the regiment was almost uninterruptedly engaged in skirmishes and minor battles. At Drury’s Bluff, on the 16th of May 1864, the regiment occupied an important position, and twice repulsed the enemy’s charges. On the 1st of June, after having joined the Army of the Potomac, the 81st went into the bloody battle of Cold Harbor, Va. On this sanguinary field on the 2nd, the regiment lost over seventy in killed and wounded. Among the killed were Captains Ballard and Martin, and Lieut. J.W. Burke, of Co.K, five other captains were wounded. 

      At the end of the twelve days in which the regiment was engaged at and near Cold Harbor, Va. Two thirds failed to answer at roll call, and   an order for provisional consolidation into four companies was issued. But, instead of the expected respite, they were marched to Petersburg, Va. and on the 15th drove the enemy from his first line of works, and participated in the brilliant and successful charge of the Eighteenth Corps. On the 16th the regiment supported an assaulting column, and on the 26th received a charge from the enemy, which they bravely with stood and almost annihilated the foe. 

      August 2nd they marched to Appomattox River, where they remained until the 26th, when they returned to Bermuda Hundred. In the succeeding battle of Fort Harrison, the 81st was the first to plant its flag on the enemy’s works, and nine officers and many privates were killed or wounded. Captain Rix, Lieutenants Tuttle and Nethway were killed, and Lieutenants Dobear and Porter were mortally wounded. During the two days of the fighting the regiment lost one hundred in killed and wounded. The regiment next participated in the engagement near Seven Pines on the 29th of August, and thence later returned to Chapin’s Farm.

      On the 5th of November the regiment was ordered to New York where it remained during the presidential election, returning to camp near Richmond, Va. When the Confederate capital fell the 81st was first infantry regiment to enter the city. The regiment was mustered out August 1, 1865.

      In recognition of its gallant services the 81st was presented with a stand of colors by the War Department, bearing the inscriptions; Yorktown, Seven Pines, Savage Station, Malvern Hill, Winton, Violet Station, Kingsland Creek, Drury’s Bluff, May 13,15,16; Cold Harbor, June 1,2,3; Petersburg, June 15,16 and 24, and July 9 and 30; Fort Harrison (Chapin’s Farm), September 29 and 30; fair Oaks (2nd), October 27, 1864.
 

     Following is a list of the engagements, sieges, skirmishes and raids in which the 81st took part: 
 
 
Siege of Yorktown, May 3,1862 Raid on Trenton   July 4, 1863
Willamsburg,          May 5,1862  Raid on Winton     July 28-30, 1863
Bottom’s Ridge       May 11,1862 Raid on Violet St.  May 9, 1864
Savage Station      May 22,1862  Kingsland Creek    May 13, 1864
Fair Oaks              May 30,1862 Drury’s Bluff         May 16, 1864
Seven Pines          May 31,1862  Cold Harbor          June 1-12, 1864
Chickahominy        June 24, 1862  Peterburg            June 15, 1864 
Charles City Cross Rd. June 25,1862 Chapin’s Farm       Sept. 29, 1864
City Cross Roads    June 25, 1862  Fair Oaks (2)        Oct. 27, 1864
Malvern Hill           July 1, 1862  Richmond, Va.      April 3rd,1865
Siege of Charleston April 7-10, 1863 

       The original rifles issued to the 81st Vol. Reg. were Muskets, Caliber 58.  The muskets were change to Springfield Rifles in 1862 and then exchange to Austrian Rifles (which were poor, inferior and unacceptable). These Rifles were exchanged for Enfield Rifle. 
 

Note:Major Mallet, a First Lieutenant at the time, was seriously wounded at Cold Harbor, Va.

Reference: Landmark of Oswego County, New York
                Edited by: John C. Churchill LLD
                Assisted by: H. Perry Smith and  Standley Child
                Date:   1895
                Book Location: Fulton, New York Library 

  Continue to 81st Roster


This information was generously contributed by Bill Young, whose great-uncle Major Mallett, served with the 81st NY Infantry. 

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