Impressions of Federal Militia in the Gettysburg Campaign

Tom Elmore

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Federal militia forces raised in response to the Confederate invasion were impressive enough on paper, and might have been effectively employed cutting Lee’s line of communications back to Virginia, but evidently they did not pose much of a direct challenge to Lee’s veterans. John B. Gordon’s brigade quickly routed or otherwise brushed aside Pennsylvania militia in sizable numbers both at Gettysburg and Wrightsville, while sustaining little, if any, loss. Meanwhile, many of those taken prisoner were compelled to relinquish their shoes and accouterments to benefit the Confederate army. It is well known that Confederate officers attempted to inspire confidence by assuring their men that at the outset they would only be facing Federal militia forces in Pennsylvania.

Federal veterans similarly expressed doubts as to the value of their fellow militiamen, not simply because they were novices in the art of war, but that they were not yet inured to the hardships expected of an experienced soldier:

When we were passing through Frederick City, Maryland, we saw the 7th Regiment Militia of New York in their fine grey uniform and they looked a great deal different than us. As they are too nice to fight, they are doing provost duty in Frederick City. (July 13 letter of George W. Fox, 6th New Jersey, http://www.ehistory.com/uscw/library/letters/fox/1863.cfm, 03/06/2002)

Some militia from New York, the 7th Regiment, was in Frederick when we came through. One said they were two whole days without butter, and marched 10 miles in one day and did not stop to make coffee but twice. When they [march] 20 or 30 miles without stopping at all for dinner, as we have done often, they will know more about soldiering. (July 12 letter of Clark McLean, 123rd New York)

The 7th New York Militia did bring with them a “fine band of about 60 pieces,” led by [C.S.] Grafulla, that serenaded General Meade near Boonsboro, Maryland. (Civil War Experiences, by Henry Meyer, Gregg’s Headquarters)

As we marched through the southern part of [Frederick] we noticed some of the members of the 9th N. Y. M. [New York Militia] standing guard with umbrellas to shield them from the rain. Geary’s veterans greeted these Sunday soldiers with groans. (J. A. Lumbard, Company G, 147th Pennsylvania, http://josephlumbard.tripod.com/diaryfull.htm, 1/28/2006)

The Quartermaster has brought up my baggage, therefore washed, brushed my hair, got on clean socks, but am without a clean shirt. (July 8 letter of Lt. John B. Woodward, Company G, 13th New York State Militia)
 

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
Member of the Year
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May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
Interestingly, the 7th New York State Militia's major when they were first called up in 1861 was Alexander Shaler, who was a brigade commander in the Sixth Corps during the Gettysburg Campaign.

Ryan
 

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