Unit History – 11th New York Infantry

12 07 2022

Cols., E. Elmer Ellsworth, Noah L. Farnham, Charles McK. Loeser; Lieut.-Cols., Noah L. Farnham, John A. Cregier, Spencer H. Stafford, Joseph E. McFarland; Majs., John A. Cregier, Charles McK. Loeser, Alexander McC. Stetson. This regiment, the 1st Fire Zouaves, was recruited in New York city and left for Washington, 1,200 strong, April 29, 1861. At Washington it was mustered into the U. S. service on May 7, for a two years’ term and was quartered at the capitol until May 9, when it was sent to Camp Lincoln. On May 24, it was ordered to Camp Ellsworth, Alexandria, Va., where it became a part of Gen. Willcox’s brigade. At the battle of Bull Run, July 21, it was with the 2nd brigade, 2nd division, Army of Northeastern Virginia, and engaged with severe loss. In September, it returned to New York for the purpose of reorganization; performed guard duty at Bedloe’s island and returned to Fortress Monroe the same month, going into camp at Newport News. Efforts to reorganize the regiment proved futile and it returned to New York May 7, 1862, and was there mustered out on June 2. Other succeeding attempts to reorganize were likewise unsuccessful and the men enlisted for that purpose were assigned to the 17th N. Y. During its term of service the regiment suffered the loss of 51 members by death from wounds and 15 from accident or disease.

From The Union Army, Vol. 2, p. 56


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3 responses

13 07 2022
Steven A. Donlon

“Efforts to reorganize the regiment proved futile and it returned to New York May 7, 1862, and was there mustered out on June 2. Other succeeding attempts to reorganize were likewise unsuccessful . . . .” What were the reasons why this unit could not be reorganized, and when did the first Fire Zouaves become the 11th New York Infantry, or was it always the 11th and just known as the First Fire Zoauves?

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13 07 2022
Harry Smeltzer

Steven, I’m not sure why reorganization failed. Perhaps reader Meg Groeling, who wrote a biography of Ellsworth, can help. The 1st Fire Zouaves became the 11th NYVI upon mustering into state service.

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13 07 2022
Meg Groeling

The regiment suffered a fatal blow when Col. Ellsworth was shot in Alexandria. Unit cohesion fell apart, training was suspended, and as time moved toward First Bull Run, no one stepped forward to reorganize and repurpose the regiment. Noah Farnham was to step into Ellsworth’s place, but he did so reluctantly. He remained Lt. Col. and would not take Ellsworth’s rank. He was also battling illness and was in the hospital the days before the battle. He had to be helped onto his horse to attempt to lead on the battlefield but suffered a mortal head wound later in the day.

One of the things that makes the 11th so special is its unique makeup of men who identified with the New York Fire Department as well as Col. Ellsworth’s regiment. The officers were (mainly) also Fire Department officials, and were torn between their careers in the FD and the army. The rank and file soldiers were shattered, and no one at that time knew what it really took to motivate a regiment of confused, sad, broken men to reorganize and fight. We now understand how delicate a balance unit cohesion is, and how important it is to mission success.

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