Thursday, December 23, 2010

Family ties 3: Your Civil War stories

The Picket is sharing readers' accounts of their ancestors who served or were affected by the Civil War. We encourage you to get involved by e-mailing us at Bob Farrell, a member of the Sons of Union Veterans and the founder of the Civil War roundtable in Raleigh, N.C., provided this account of Pvt. Robert Taggart, who was married to a sister of his great-great-great grandfather, and was wounded twice.

This tailor by trade, enlisted in the service of his country on Sept. 3, 1862, at Whitehall, Washington Co., N.Y., at age 37. He was enrolled for three years by Captain Augustus D. Vaughn into Company F, comprised of residents of Fort Ann, Lisbon and Whitehall. Company D was recruited from Fort Edward and Kingston, Company A was recruited from towns east and southeast of Troy, all within Rensselaer County. The remaining seven Companies came from Troy. Thus it was named "The Third Troy Regiment."

The 169th New York Volunteer Infantry was commanded by Col. Clarence W. Buell and called into service the 7th day of October 1862, 915 strong. Like many other Eastern units, the 169th began by guarding Washington, D.C. and developing their military skills. Their introduction to combat came on the Edenton Road near Suffolk, Va., April 24, 1863. For the next year, they remained in the South Carolina area participating in the siege of Battery Wagner and the bombardment of Fort Sumter.

1864 found the 169th primarily in Virginia, mostly in the environs around Petersburg. It is interesting to note on Feb. 28, 1864, the 169th was transferred to northern Florida, in the Jacksonville area. The units personal effects were brought south on the U.S. Army transport " Maple Leaf. " In the 1990s, the remains of the Maple Leaf were found in the silt of the St. Johns River. When the artifacts were examined they were determined to be near pristine. Lack of funds, then and now, have precluded a complete recovery. However, they remain safe covered with the anaerobic silt of the river.

On the morning of the 1st of April, while traveling on the St. Johns River, the boat hit a Confederate torpedo sinking immediately, with the loss of four crewmen and all the personal effects of the 169th and three other regiments. In May and June of that year, they were to be found at the scene of many well known battles -- Port Walthall, Swift Creek, Drewry’s Bluff, Bermuda Hundred, Cold Harbor and the assault on Petersburg. During this period, they sustained 225 casualties -- 38 of which were enlisted, and 2 officers -- killed in combat

The most notorious event of the Petersburg Campaign was the famous Mine Explosion on the morning of July 30th. The 169th saw a great deal of action in the lines to the immediate right of the actual crater, a point at which there was a great loss of life on both sides. The 10th Corps, led by Brig. Gen. John W. Turner, and included the 169th N.Y. and the 97th Penna., held the Confederates in check throughout the morning. Had they not done their part, the Union could have suffered additional losses. It was here that Company F lost its Captain Vaughn, along with 18 other casualties to the regiment, a relatively small loss compared to the other units of the division. The remainder of the year saw the 169th participating in the battles of Dutch Gap, Strawberry Plains, Chaffin’s Farm and in December the first assault on Fort Fisher.

Jan. 15th, 1865, saw the second assault upon Fort Fisher, N.C., where the XXIV Corp, Second Division, including the 169th NYV and the 97th Pennsylvania, were the first to breach the line and carry the stronghold of the enemy. While sleeping on the grass early on the morning of the 16th, the 169th had placed themselves directly over the powder magazine, which was accidently detonated by drunken Union sailors. The killed numbered 33 and the wounded went uncounted.

The New York Herald numbers Robert Taggart among the wounded.

The next four months till the end of the war , saw the 169th in the Carolinas where they were mustered out on July 19, 1865, at Raleigh, NC. At the end, they had lost to death, 157 in combat (KIA & DOW) and 371 other casualties (DOD or serious wounds). Only 25 other N.Y. State units suffered greater losses, and are so honored in "Fox’s Regimental Losses." They returned to Troy on July 24, 1865, to a gigantic outpouring of townspeople, celebrities and politicians.

On Aug. 3, they received their final pay and disbanded. Fewer than 120 of the original 915 recruits returning to their families.

Robert Taggart returned to Whitehall, having been wounded at Cold Harbor 6-30-1864 and at the explosion at Fort Fisher 1-16-1865. He died May 25, 1883, at age 58, the direct result of a service-induced condition. He is interred in the Bordman Cemetery, plot CC14.

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