Saturday, September 13, 2008

The 76th Regimental Association Held Annual Reunions

By Richard Palmer

After the Civil War, most major units held annual reunions. Aside from these there were also annual reunions of the local Grand Army of the Republic Posts. Starting in 1869 when it was formed, the 76th Regimental Association, remnant of the 76th Regiment, New York Volunteers, held an official reunion annually, (with the exception of 1876, 1888 and 1892) until 1922 when the organization was disbanded. Even the few members still living continued to hold informal reunions for another three years in Cortland.

These reunions were always a great time of camaraderie as they served to reunite old friends who had fought and marched together. Although the majority of the reunions centered in Cortland, they were occasionally held in other communities where veterans of the 76th Regiment resided. These included Cazenovia, Cherry Valley, Dryden, Groton, Ithaca, Marathon, McGraw, McLean, Montour Falls, Newark Valley, Sherburne, Truxton, and Worcester (Otsego County).

Generally, the reunions were held during the first week of October, coinciding as closely as possible to the date the unit was organized in 1861. The association was officially formed at a meeting in September, 1869, largely through the efforts of A.P. Smith, the unit's official historian. At that meeting it was decided to hold the first reunion in Cortland on Oct. 6, 1869. Former unit members learned of the upcoming event by letter and through local newspapers.

Col. William P. Wainwright, one of the early unit commanders, then living in Rhinebeck, was among those invited to attend. At noon on Oct. 6 the first reunion got underway at Taylor Hall in downtown Cortland. Major Aaron Sager was chosen as chairman. At this time the association was formally organized with officers. These included Col. Wainwright as president, Lt. Col. J.D. Shaul of Springfield, Otsego County, first vice president; Col. John E. Cook of Yates county, second vice president; Major Sager of Cortland, third vice president; Capt. E.A. Mead of Cayuga County, fourth vice president; Capt. William H. Myers, treasurer; A. P. Smith, corresponding secretary and quartermaster; and William J. Mantanye of Marathon, recording secretary. The executive committee consisted of P.W. Chatey, Capt. J.C. Hatch of McLean, Capt. Albert J. Jarvis, B.F. Taylor and Scepta Ringe of Cortland, Capt. James L. Goddard of Truxton, Capt. S.M. Byram of Virgil.

When Col. Wainwright was nominated as president, everyone present arose to their feet and gave three cheers of acclamation and a spontaneous applause followed. Due to problems caused by a storm, Col. Wainwright was unable to attend due to train delays. During the proceedings, 76 veterans signed the association constitution. Mantanye read the official report of the Battle of Gettysburg and several others gave addresses and discussed the numerous battles in which the 76th was engaged.

The unit was then formed and the veterans marched to the Messenger House, a local hotel, where dinner was served at 2:30 p.m.

The Cortland Standard of Oct. 12, 1869 recorded:

The old flag was placed in the center of the room, and as it met the eyes of the boys who had followed it to glory, there was a spontaneous "three cheers for the old flag," which was "truly cheering."

After dinner the veterans reformed and marched through the village, led by the Cortland Brass Band. On returning to Taylor Hall, they were greeted by a large group of citizens who had assembled to pay their respects to the regiment . Then another meeting was called to order by Col Shaul. Mantanye then read the official report of General Lysander Cutler of the Battle of Gettysburg in which the 76th lost 80 percent of its number in killed, wounded, missing and taken prisoner. The report spoke in the highest terms and praise of the gallantry of Major Andrew J. Grover who was killed early in the action on July 1, 1863. Horatio Ballard, a prominent Cortland resident, alluded to the 27 important battles in which the regiment had engaged.

The Cortland Standard recorded:

"As the speaker portrayed the the heroism of the brave men before him, he was at times almost overwhelmed with emotion, until at last, in the enthusiasm of the hour, he seized the tattered flag of so many battles, and shaking it before the assemblage, declared it spoke with greater eloquence than human tongue could utter. This was the signal for a general rush to their feet, and the 'three cheers and a tiger,' while they interrupted the speaker, could but satisfy him that he had touched the chord of their sympathies."

There were several other speakers who gave stirring and patriotic speeches. They included Dr. Miles Goodyear, a noted surgeon from Cortland who carved his way through army hospitals and battlefields during the war; and a Sgt. Bailey, one of the first volunteers from Cortland who joined when the 23rd N.Y. Volunteers was called out. A.P. Smith then read letters from those unable to attend the reunion. Later, unit veterans again formed and marched to the Messenger House for a reception.

The Cortland Standard remarked that : "Altogether we are free to say, without disparagement to any other organization, that there has been no more successful reunion in this county since the war." It was resolved to hold the next reunion in Cortland on Oct. 4, 1870.

1902 Reunion - Groton, NY

From the Cortland Democrat, October 29, 1902

The thirty-fourth annual re-union of the Seventy-Sixth Regiment N.Y.S.Vols., which is known in history as "the Fighting 76th" was held at Groton, Saturday, Oct. 11.

The ranks of this famous old regiment, which opened the battle of Gettysburg, have been greatly thinned in the years since the war. Less than forty met at this re-union, although some of the survivors were prevented from attending.

A business meeting of the regimental association was held in the forenoon and routine business transacted, and the following officers elected:

President - Dr. Geo. M. Post, Montour Falls, N.Y.

1st Vice President - Hon. H.C. St. Pierre, Montreal, Canada

2nd Vice President - U. A. Burnham, Duluth, Minn.

3rd Vice President - D. R. Montgomery, Dryden, N.Y.

4th Vice President - Alfred Foland, Worcester, N.Y.

Secretary - Lucius Davis, Cortland, N.Y.

Treasurer - Martin Edgcomb, Cortland, N.Y.

Montour Falls was selected as the next place of meeting.

Following the morning session, a very delicious chicken-pie dinner was served by the ladies of Groton to the veterans and their wives.

A public meeting was held at the Opera House at 2 p.m., at which Amos Avery presided.

After the invocation by Rev. Burr of Groton, Mr. and Mrs. H. G. Moe sang a military selection.

The address of welcome was delivered by Capt. Wm. E. Mount of Groton. This was followed by a song from the Groton quartet.

Judge H.C. St. Pierre of Montreal, Canada, responded to the address of welcome and delivered the principal address of the day. Judge St. Pierre was a lad of eighteen at the time of the battle of Gettysburg, and became inspired with the martial spirit and ran away from his Canadian home and friends to enlist in the 76th under the name of Louis Henry. An account of his being taken prisoner and the escape will soon be given at length.

Rev. W. Smith of Groton, who delivered the address twenty-five years before at Groton, made a short speech.

The program closed with another song by the quartet, folled by remarks by Geo. B. Davis, Esq., of Ithaca. The benediction was pronounced by Rev. Mr. Andrews of Groton.

The members who were present at the re-union were: Orville Dickinson, Robert Davidson, Daniel Younge, Almond M. Kibbe, Chs. W. Hutchings, George Thornton, Edwin Hulbert, B. Howard, Wm. J. Mantanye, U. A. Burnham, Geo. M. Post, Geo. Smith, E.H. Teeter, N. W. Smith, E. A. Meade, D. R. Montgomery, Amos Avery, Francis Brace, H. Zele, Martin Northrup, I. Bennet, C.M. Perrigo, Melvin H. Reade, Judge H.C. Saint Pierre, Benjamin Taylor, S. E. Sanders, Henry C. Stilson, Martin Edgcomb, Lucius Davis, D. C. MacGregor, Oren Button*, Solomon Reneff, L. Stebbins

* probably Sgt. Orrin Burton



Last reunion of the 76th Regiment

(From the Cortland Democrat, Sept. 18, 1925)

Eight Veterans of 76th Meet at Last Reunion of Regiment

Eight veterans of the 76th Regiment, every man past 80 years old, met at their final reunion in Cortland last Thursday, and after a day spent in recounting events of their active service in the Cortland county regiment, with tear-dimmed eyes they bade each other farewell forever, for it is unlikely that these eight of the few survivors of the gallant regiment will ever be together again. Veterans of other regiments, women of the Relief Corps and a few friends met with the aged men of the 76th.

Dr. George M. Post of Montour Falls was chairman of the final reunion. The mortuary report included the names of William M. Sweet, who died Feb. 23, 1925, A.D. Brown, May 3, 1925, and a letter from daughter told of the death of John Nugent at Albany on April 3, 1925. The death of Mrs. Miles last December was also reported. The veterans present were Lieut. Homer D. Call, 82, Syracuse; Lieut. Uberto A. Burnham, 86, Cortland; Dr. George M. Post, 80, Montour Falls; Eli A. Berry, 87, Washington; George W. Smith, 86, Marathon; L.C. Durkee, 82, Preble; George Keech, 82, Titusville, Pa.; and Clinton D. Bouton, 83, Ithaca. Fifteen charter members of the Women's Relief Corps attended. Rev. S.S. Bradford of Cortland and Rev. F.A. Hassold of Preble acted as chaplains.

The chairman, Dr. Post, called for brief talks by each of the veterans and the regiment's claim to the honor of firing the first shots at Gettysburg was substantiated by the testimony of men who knew because they were there. Justice Rowland L. Davis, son of Capt. Lucius Davis of the 76th, spoke for a few minutes and promised that some time he will write a history of the part taken by the regiment at Gettysburg. Eugene Powers of Cortland, who as a boy of 17 was drummer for the regiment while in training on Cortland Fairgrounds spent the afternoon with the veterans and was greeted as a comrade.

Organized in 1861

When the disaster at Bull Run, 1861, convinced the North that the rebellion meant real war there was a meeting in a Cortland law office to consider the raising of forces for the Union army. One man alone thought a regiment could be recruited, Nelson Winch Green, afterwards colonel of the 76th. Governor Morgan authorized Mr. Green to proceed and a notice was sent to every community, over the signatures of 36 leading citizens, dated Sept. 2, 1861. So quickly did the young men of the county respond that on Sept. 26 the regiment was assembled on the Cortland Fairground under the command of Colonel Green.

Colonel Green had been educated at West Point and was in the same class as General Grant. In his last year he was injured by accident while at artillery drill and was discharged from the military academy without graduation. He was an excellent organizer and the regiment was well drilled when it moved to Albany on Dec. 18, 1861, with about 800 men. A regiment recruited in Otsego county, was ordered to Albany at about the same time with 500 men, and three companies were added to the 76th.

Original Officers of the 76th

Field and staff officers of the regiment when it left Albany for New York to proceed to Washington were: Col. N.W. Green of Cortland; Lt. Col. John D. Shaul of Springfield; Major C.E. Livingstone of New York City; Surgeon J.C. Nelson of Truxton; Asst. Surgeon George W. Metcalfe of Otsego county; Chaplain H. Stone Richardson of New York Mills; Adjutant Heman F. Robinson of Cortland; Quartermaster A.P. Smith of Cortland; Quartermaster-Sergeant Albert J. Jarvis of Cortland; Commissary Sergeant William Storrs of Allegany. During the time that the regiment was in camp at Cortland, Captain Andrew J. McNett of Allegany county joined with 70 men and Captain McNett expected to be the regiment's major. Disappointed, he disobeyed Colonel Green's orders and went to Albany when he asked for a furlough to go to Syracuse. For this he was ordered under arrest and confined to his quarters and was shot but not seriously injured by Colonel Green when he refused to obey an order to retire to his tent. At Albany, Governor Morgan transferred Captain McNett and his company to the 93d New York Regiment.

Colonel Green was relieved of his command and ordered he was ordered back to Cortland in February, 1862. Military courts exonerated him for shooting McNett, and when he was tried in this county for assault, after the war, the jury disagreed and the indictment was dismissed.

The Regiment's Commanders

Lt. Col. John D. Shaul was in command of the 76th until June, 1862, when Col. William P. Wainwright of New York City was appointed to command. he had studied military science in Germany and made his regiment one of the best in the Union army. Colonel Wainwright's health failed in June, 1863, and he was relieved of his command when the army was moving north toward Gettysburg. He was succeeded by Major Andrew J. Grover, a native of West Dryden, who was pastor of the Methodist Church in Cortland when he joined the regiment. He was killed the first day at Gettysburg.

Major John E. Cook assumed command after Major Grover's death and continued as commanding officer until Oct. 7, 1864/ He was wounded several times and in his absences in hospitals the command devolved upon Major John W. Young. The latter was wounded and taken prisoner at the battle of Wilderness, May 5, 1864. At different times the command fell upon Captain Byram of Company D, Captain Hatch of Company C. and Captain Cochrane.

The regiment was first under fire at Rappahannock State, Va., Aug. 21, 1862. Subsequent battles in which it fought were: Warrenton, Sulphur Springs, Gainesville, Second Bull Run, South Mountain, Antietam, Snicker's Gap, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Wilderness, Laurel Hill, Spotsylvania, Jericho Ford, Tolopotomy, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Weldon Railroad, Poplar Grove Church, First Hatcher's Run, Hicksford Ron, Second Hatcher's Run, Five Forks, and Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House, April 9, 1865. The 76th, or what was left of it, was consolidated with the 147th Regiment on January 25, 1865.

The 76th fired the first shot at Gettysburg, and in the first half hour 18 officers and 151 were killed or wounded. General Reynolds, killed at Gettysburg, was commanding the division of which the 76th was a part. In less than a year three generals, Reynolds, Wadsworth and Rice, were killed leading the 76th.

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