New York State in the Civil War

New York States Beginning

On July 6, 1776 New York became the 11th State to join the new rebellion against England, and formed one of the original 13 colonies. NY Soon after became home of the US Capital for a brief time from 1785-1790. Long before the American Civil War began, factional ethnic groups with strong diversity of European heritage & interest made NY State politics a highly controversial affair.

Although Slavery was a topic of the day and many New Yorkers opposed slavery, not all were unsympathetic towards the south & their “States Rights” cause.

Slavery was legal in the United States, and slavery was alive in New York. The abolitionist movement was strong, throughout the state. Slave catchers made their money seeking out their prey all along the British North American boarder.

The Civil War Begins

Following the bombardment of Ft Sumter on April 14, 1861, during morning parade the Union garrison surrendered the fort, and fired a 100 gun salute, the 47th gun to fired, had misfired and the only Union soldier casualty during this history fight was killed. The first Enlisted man to be killed in the Civil War from NY State was said to be Daniel Hough was  born in 1825 in Ireland, and lived in NY City. Daniel was a member of the 1st US Artillery, Battery E.

When the Civil War broke out, the only troops readily available were the NY State militia numbering approx 50 Regiments throughout the state.

Upon the first shops fired at the garrison at Fort Sumter, in the harbor of Charleston, South Carolina on April 12, 1861. President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteers.

The Governor of NY State in 1861 was Edwin D Morgan (R), and in 1862 it was Horatio Seymour (D).

first  Union officer to be killed in the Civil War was Colonel Elmer Ellsworth,  was shot dead after removing a rebel flag from a hotel in Alexandria, VA on May 24, 1861, and his death was a national sensation in the first months of the war.


Since those first official shots at Fort Sumter, NY State men fought on nearly every theater of the war, in nearly every major action. New York State furnished approx 474, 700 men; providing 224 Infantry Regiments, 54 Militia , 38 Cavalry Regiments, 42 Light Artillery Batteries, 20 Heavy Artillery Batteries, 3 Engineer Regiments, 3 Full USCT Regiments and 1 Sharp Shooter Regiment and a undocumented number of men serving in the US Navy.

The Draft Riots

In 1863 the US Congress adopted the Conscript Act to draft men into military service. Those who opposed the draft formed violent mobs, ransacked the draft offices, chasing out the Provost Marshall, rampaging through the streets from NY City to Buffalo. The result of many of these mobs caused looting, arson, lynching of blacks and burning of abolitionist homes. Many of these insurrections were inspired by workmen (many of whom were immigrants) who refused to fight, and refused to emancipate the blackman, who were in competition for jobs.

The Draft Riots took place in all the major cities in NY, such as Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and the largest were in New York City. In NY City in July / August 1863 and 1864 had some 50, 000 protesters, causing 1.5 million dollars in damages, and causing some 1,000 causalities in either killed or wounded.

New York was heard at Gettysburg

The Gettysburg campaign represented the largest number of Union soldiers were from NY State numbering approx 27,000 men. 61 Infantry Regiments, 8 Cavalry and 13 Artillery. the end result was a devastating lost of approx 6,773 men. 4,023 Wounded, 1,761 Captured & 989 Killed – this numbers about 30% loss of the total number engaged.

In 1864 President Abraham Lincoln and the republican party carried NY State in is election

The dark side of War

As the war continued, many of the former training camps & supply depots were transformed into confinement areas for thousands of captured Confederate soldiers. These Prisoner of War camps were mainly in the NY City area. Elmira was the site that would gain a reputation as being a “death camp’, as the prisoner capacities of this camp swelled from 3,000 to an overcrowding number of 12,000 prisoners in 1865, totaling over 3,000 CS soldiers deaths in only 14 months.

Of the thousands of Confederate POW’s who were confined in NY State in the dozen or so prisons camps, between 3,000-5,000 CS troops died. The exact  number is unknown, due to the poor record keeping and the lack of regulations regarding treatment of Prisoners and the accurate identifying the dead.


Economics in NY State during the Civil War

New York State contributed for the war effort very large, providing the greatest number of soldiers (approx 474,700 soldiers); providing the largest volume of supplies and the biggest financial support of any Union state state

Economically the Civil War produced a diverse effect within the state. Manufacturing, finance & transportation flourished as did the agriculture, despite a drop in farm population.

The merchant fleet & foreign shipping suffered severely, but domestic commerce by rail boomed.

While manufacturing & farms production increased; workers real wages fell well behind inflation, spreading misery & discontent.

The Civil War excited easy money, bred saloons, brothels & gambling. This increased graft & corruption in local government.

The price paid by the men of NY State

Approx 20 % of all the men of military age served in the Union army ; approx 474,700 men and more than half of those enlisted were under the age of 30.

Of the total enlistment, more than 130,000 were foreign-born, including 20,000 from British North American (Canada); 51,000 were Irish and 37,000 German. 4,127 Blacks soldiers served from NYS.                                                                                                           The average age of the New York soldiers was 25 years old.

Out of the approx 474,700 men to serve the Union army from NY State; 834 Officers were Killed in Action, and another 7,235 Officers died from their wounds. 12,142 enlisted men were Killed, with over 27,855 soldiers died of wounds & disease; 5,766 men from New York would also die in rebel prisons. A approx 50,000 men from NY State lost their lives serving the Union Army.