May 30, 2004

Dryden in the Civil War

There are no longer any Civil War veterans among us, but their sacrifices are no less worth remembering. George Goodrich examines the impact of the "War of the Rebellion" in the Town of Dryden, the units from Dryden, the support their community provided, and the battles they fought.

Chapter XVIII.

The War of the Rebellion.

It is now easy to see in the light of history that in their efforts to preserve and perpetuate the institution of slavery, the Southern States by their attempted secession hastened its doom to speedy abolition. Slavery might have been one of the perplexing subjects of politics today had not the crisis been precipitated by the commencement of hostilities in April, 1861.

It will be difficult for succeeding generations to realize with what anxiety and interest the investment and capture of Fort Sumpter and the subsequent progress of the war were watched by the people of Dryden in common with the inhabitants of all of the states of the North. No railroads or telegraph then served to deliver the war news within the town of Dryden. The only mail which was then received was brought by the daily stages from Ithaca and Cortland, meeting at Dryden village at noon. The New York daily papers of the morning would in this way reach Dryden the next day at noon, when the first news was obtained, unless, as was frequently the case, a messenger was dispatched by private contributors to Cortland, the nearest railroad and telegraph station in those times, to bring back the latest news late in the evening. Those who remember how anxiously the tidings of war were watched for, will call to mind with what feelings of disappointment the frequent stereotyped response was received, "All quiet on the Potomac."

The capture of Fort Sumpter by the Confederates served immediately to strengthen and unite the people of the North in their determination to preserve the Union with or without slavery at first, but finally only with the complete abolition of that troublesome institution. For that purpose a large part of the Democratic party, known as "War Democrats," united with the government in its effort to preserve the Union and with that determination stood by it until the termination of the war, while the remaining Democrats, who opposed the war, or professed to be indifferent on the subject, were openly denounced and branded as "Copper-heads."

The first volunteers to go into the military service from our town joined some companies organized in Ithaca, which were afterward united at New York with others to form the 32nd Infantry, with which they went to the front in June, 1861. Among these volunteers was Captain Sylvester H. Brown, who was killed at City Point, Va. This regiment enlisted for only two years, but saw severe service, participating in the battles of West Point, Gaines Mills, White Oak Swamp, Malvern Hill, Crompton Gap, Antietam, and Fredericksburg. After their term of two years had expired many of the survivors re-enlisted in other regiments. In the fall and winter of that year the 76th regiment was organized, of which companies F. and C. were largely recruited from the town of Dryden. This organization had an unfortunate beginning, growing out of a personal quarrel between Col. Green and one of his subordinate officers, resulting in the shooting and wounding of the latter, while they were encamped at Cortland. Afterwards the 76th, under Col. Wainwright, did valiant service and took part in the battles of Rappahannock Station, Warrenton, Gainesville, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Upperville, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and Mine Run.

The early campaigns of the Union forces in Virginia were not successful. Such disasters as the battle of Bull Run served to convince the people of the North that greater efforts had to be made. War meetings were held in all parts of the county, attended with bands of music and patriotic speakers. At these meetings liberal contributions were made for the aid of the families of such as should go to the front. A senatorial war committee was appointed, of which our late townsman, Jeremiah W. Dwight, was the member from this county, and a local town committee was selected, consisting of Luther Griswold, Smith Robertson, Charles Givens, Thomas J. McElheny, and W. W. Snyder.

In the summer of 1862 the 109th regiment was organized, Company F. being largely made up of Dryden volunteers. It was mustered into Service August 28, 1862, but was kept on guard duty for the first year and more. Its first fight was in the terrible battle of the Wilderness when more than one hundred of its men were left upon the field of battle. Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor and the battles before Petersburg followed in quick succession, in all of which this regiment made a gallant record, but suffered severely, so that when they came to be mustered out of the service in June, 1865, there were only two hundred and fifty men left of the twelve hundred which first went into the Wilderness.

In October, 1862, the 143d regiment, of which one company was made up mostly of Dryden men under Capt. Harrison Marvin, was mustered into service. Although this regiment did not see such severe service it had an honorable record and its roll of honor bore the following inscriptions: Nansemond, Wanhatchie, Lookout Mountain, Chattanooga, Knoxville, Resaca, Dallas, Kenesaw Mountain, Culpepper Farm, Peach Tree Ridge, Atlanta and Savannah.

Capt. Geo. L. Truesdell with quite a number of other Dryden men joined early in 1864 the 15th New York Cavarly, which was organized from August 8, 1863, to January 14, 1864, to serve for three years. Nine companies were recruited at Syracuse, one at Elmira, one at Cavalry Depot, Washington, D. C., and one in the state of New York at large. It was consolidated with the Sixth New York Cavalry June 17th, 1865, and the consolidated force designated the Second Provisional New York Cavalry. Col. Robert M. Richardson resigned Jan. 19, 1865, leaving in command Col. John J. Coppinger. The regiment lost by death during its service in killed during action, three officers and eighteen men; of wounds received in action, nineteen men; of disease and other causes, four officers and 129 men; a grand total of one hundred seventy men. It was at Hillsboro, Upperville, Franklin, Romney, New Market, Front Royal, Newton, Mount Jackson, Piedmont, Stanton, Waynesboro, Lexington, New London, Diamond Hill, Lynchburg, Snicker's Gap, Ashby's Gap, Winchester, Green Spring, and the Appomattox campaign.

The early enlistments were all volunteers aided and encouraged at first by liberal provisions for the families of those who should enlist, and afterwards by large bounties in addition, to the soldier himself. Only one draft was made in the town, which was executed in July, 1863, according to the terms of which the drafted man himself could hire a substitute to go in his place or, by paying three hundred dollars, the government would provide the substitute. A second and third draft was ordered but the supervisors of the county here came to the rescue and hired, at the expense of the county, enough non-resident soldiers to make up, with those who had volunteered, the full quota of the towns of Tompkins county.

We regret that we are not able to make our military record more complete, having given only a brief reference to the companies which were made up almost wholly of Dryden men. Many others were scattered through different regiments and in all branches of the service, and we supplement this brief record by the following chapter, which aims to give a complete list of the Dryden soldiers, specifying those who died or were severely wounded in the service.

Goodrich, George B. The Centennial History of the Town of Dryden, 1797-1897. Dryden: Dryden Herald Steam Printing House, 1898. Reprinted 1993 by the Dryden Historical Society. Pages 52-55.

(The Dryden Historical Society, which sells this book, may be reached at 607-844-9209.)

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