Unit History – 38th New York Infantry

1 03 2022

Cols., J. H. Hobart Ward, James C. Strong, Regis De Trobriand; Lieut. – Cols., Addison Farnsworth, James C. Strong, James D. Potter, Robert F. Allison; Majs., James D. Potter, William H. Baird, Augustus Funk, George H. Starr, Francis Jehl. The 38th, the 2nd Scott’s Life Guard, composed of seven companies from New York city, one from Geneva, one from Horseheads and one from Elizabethtown, was mustered into the U. S. service at New York city, June 3 and 8, 1861, for two years, and left the state for Washington on the 19th. It went into camp on Meridian hill until July 7, when was ordered to Alexandria and assigned to the 2nd brigade, 3d division, Army of Northeastern Virginia, and was active at the first battle of Bull Run, where it lost 128 in killed, wounded and missing. During August and September the regiment was employed in construction work at Forts Ward and Lyons in Howard’s brigade, and in October was assigned to Sedgwick’s brigade, Heintzelman’s division. The winter camp was established in Oct., 1861, on the old Fairfax road and occupied until March, 1862, when, with the 2nd brigade, 3d division, 3d corps, the regiment embarked for Fortress Monroe. It participated in the siege of Yorktown; the battle of Williamsburg, where the loss of the command was 88 in killed, wounded and missing; shared in the engagement at Fair Oaks, and in the Seven Days’ battles, after which it encamped at Harrison’s landing until Aug. 15. From there it moved to Yorktown and Alexandria; was active at the second Bull Run and Chantilly; reached Falmouth on Nov. 25, and at Fredericksburg, lost 133 members killed, wounded and missing. On Dec. 22, 1862, the regiment received the addition of four companies of the 55th N. Y., which were added to the six companies of the 38th formed by consolidation of the regiment on Dec. 21. It participated in the “Mud March;” returned to camp near Falmouth ; engaged in the Chancellorsville campaign ; was then stationed at Acquia Creek until the troops started for New York on June 4 and was mustered out at New York city, on the 22nd. The three years men were transferred to the 40thN. Y. infantry, of which regiment they became Cos. A, E and H. The total strength of the regiment was 796 and it lost 75 by death from wounds and 46 from other causes.

The Union Army, Vol. 2, pp. 75-76

38th New York Infantry Roster

Lt. George W. Cooney, Co. D*, 38th New York Infantry, On the Battle

1 03 2022

The Scott Life Guard

The following letter, from an officer of this regiment – the Thirty -eight New-York Volunteers – contains an interesting account of their participation in the battle at Bull’s Run. This regiment was one of the first in the field, and last out of it. They suffered as much as any engaged, yet they were scarcely credited or mentioned in connection with the affair:

Camp Scott, near Alexandria,
Thursday, July 25, 1861.

My Dear Father: I suppose you are desirous to hear from me in regard to our glorious attack and inglorious retreat. We moved on Bull’s Run at 6 A. M. on Sunday morning, and arrived at 11 ½ A. M., after two miles of “double-quick,” when, without one moment’s rest, we were ordered to cross to the left of Arnold’s Battery and support him. This was after we had moved up the side-hill and given the enemy one round. In the meantime the New-York Zouaves moved over to the right of Arnold, and lay under cover of a fence, whilst our regiment passed on to the left. Arnold’s Battery was no more planted when the enemy opened their heavy artillery on him., and after one shot got his range completely, knocking two of his guns off their carriages, and killing or wounding almost every man in his command. Those who survived the volley ran away. Upon their running, a party of horsemen, some 90 or 100 strong, dashed up for the purpose, I suppose, of capturing the guns, but the Zouaves rose up from behind the fence and completely emptied their saddles. I do not believe there were ten out of the company, said to be command by Ben McCulloch, who is himself killed. After their destruction the Zouaves fell back for the purpose of reloading, when a regiment of infantry dashed out at a charge bayonets from the bushes, for the purpose of following the Firemen, thinking I suppose, they had run; we then rose and gave them a volley; the Zouaves then dashed back from the road to our relief, and passing us moved right down into the hollow, where Col War immediately ordered us to follow. This was the bloodiest part of the battle; here we were exposed to both infantry, riflemen and occasional charges of cavalry, besides the continual and rapid fire of their whole artillery. Here we were for three hours, some of us now charging with parties of Zouaves, and now with some of our own men; five times I came within sight of their masked batteries, and in this hot place were the Zouaves and our regiment kept, without one company of any other regiment coming to our support. Once and once only the gallant Fourteenth of Brooklyn endeavored to come to our assistance, but they could not get through the terrible fire between us, and were obliged to fall back. For all this, with our Major wounded and missing, Capt. McQuade killed, young Tom Hamblin, First Lieutenant, wounded and prisoner, Lieut. Brady wounded, Capt. McGrath wounded, and no less than 250 men killed and wounded, the New-York papers never gave one word about the Scott Life Guard.

The retreat was the most awful sight the eye of man ever looked upon. The troops had had no sleep for forty-eight hours, and traveled ten miles out to Bull’s Run. The retreat was made from that place to Washington, a distance of thirty-six miles. Next day I read of the death of my dear brother, James, which added keenly to the gloom of our defeat.


The New York Times, 7/29/1861

Clipping Image

  • The status of George W. Cooney in the regiment is uncertain. See below roster for the official history of Cooney’s service. His account indicates he was with the regiment, regardless.

38th New York Infantry roster

George W. Cooney at Ancestry

George W. Cooney at Fold3