Unit History – 71st New York State Militia

29 06 2022

Col., Abram S. Vosburgh; Lieut.- Col., Henry P. Martin; Maj., George A. Buckingham. This regiment, also known as the American Guard and Vosburgh Chasseurs, was a New York city organization and was one of the eleven uniformed militia regiments sent to the relief of Washington upon the outbreak of the war. It left the state on April 21, 1861, 950 strong, reached the capital on the 27th; and was mustered into the U. S. service on May 3, for a term of three months. It was first quartered in the inauguration ball room, whence it was ordered to barracks in the navy yard. Co. I, armed with 2 howitzers, was originally Co. L, 19th militia, “Parmenter’s Riflemen” from Newburg, and joined the 71st soon after its arrival in Washington. On May 20, Col. Vosburgh succumbed to disease and the command devolved upon Lieut.-Col. Martin, who was commissioned colonel on June 15, Charles H. Smith becoming lieutenant-colonel at the same time. The regiment participated in the occupation of Alexandria, Va., May 24, and first came under fire in the attack on the batteries at Acquia creek. It took part in the attack on Matthias point and rendered excellent service at the first battle of Bull Run, where it served in the 2nd brigade (Burnside’s), 2nd division (Hunter’s), Army of Northeastern Virginia, being among the last to leave the field and retiring in good order. It lost 10 enlisted men killed, 3 officers and 37 men wounded, 1 officer and 11 men captured, a total loss of 62. Speaking of the service of the 71st, Col. Burnside reported: “I beg again to mention the bravery and steadiness manifested by Col. Martin and his entire regiment, both in the field and during the retreat.” The regiment was mustered out on July 30, 1861, at New York city. On May 28, 1862, the regiment was again mustered into the U. S. service for three months and left the state the same day, 820 strong. It was commanded by Col. Martin, with Charles H. Smith as lieutenant-colonel. Assigned to Sturgis’ brigade it served in the defenses of Washington, and was mustered out in New York city on Sept. 2. A considerable number of the regiment at once reënlisted in the 124th infantry then being recruited. On June 17, 1863, the regiment entered the U. S. service for the third time, leaving the state for Harrisburg, Pa., for 30 days’ service. Its field officers were Col., Benjamin L. Trafford; Lieut.- Col., William J. Coles; Maj., David C. Muschutt. It was assigned to the 1st brigade, 1st division, Department of the Susquehanna, and saw a good deal of hard service during the short campaign, being almost constantly on the march. It participated in skirmishes at Kingston and near Harrisburg, and on its return to the state was on active duty during the draft riots in New York city in July. It was mustered out of service, July 22, 1863. The losses of the regiment during service in 1861 were 11 enlisted men killed in action; 1 enlisted man and 1 officer died of wounds; 1 officer and 4 enlisted men died of disease, a total of 18.

From The Union Army, Vol. 2, pp. 245-246

Pvt. Robert Welch, Co. H,  71st New State Militia, On the Battle

25 03 2022

The 71st N. Y. AT BULL RUN.


It Suffered Quite a Heavy Loss.

Editor National Tribune: I am and have been very much interested in your history of the different armies. In your issue of June 6, I your account of the losses of Burnside’s Brigade, you mention the losses of the 1st and 2d R. I. and 2d N. H., but not of the 71st N. Y. S. M. As I have the published report of Col. Martin of the 71st, in my possession, I can add to your record. The report is dated Aug. 1, 1861, and gives the name of every man; Killed in action: 10; died from wounds, five; wounded, 36; prisoners, 19; missing, 5; total, 75. I was wounded and lay at the Sudley Church when the retreat was made from the extreme right flank. When Johnston’s reinforcements arrived Co. I, Capt. Ellis (afterwards Colonel of the 124th N. Y.) commanded the battery of two Dahlgren howitzers and did effective work. Gen. Beauregard, in his account of the battle, says that the two howitzers did more damage than the Parrott guns. As far as my judgement, after the experience of over five years later service, the battle of Bull Run was miserably managed. Several thousand troops were not brot into action, and, as you say, the battle was fought by piece meals. I can say this, that Burnside’s Brigade went in action as a brigade. As the brigade marched out of the timber beyond Sudley Church and was clear of it the order was given “By the left flank,” and the brigade went into action as a unit. When they arrived at the top of the knoll on the left flank of the enemy a volley was poured into the enemy, we receiving one in return, buy which I was wounded, then taken to Sudley Church Hospital, not knowing of any further action of the brigade afterwards. I look back on the battle of Bull Run as a small affair compared with what I was in afterwards, more especially during the siege of Port Hudson and Sheridan’s Shenandoah campaign and the Red River campaign.

—–Robert Welch, Co. H, 71st N. Y. S. M. 203 Tompkins avenue, Brooklyn, N. Y.

National Tribune, 7/25/1907

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Robert Welch at Ancestry

Robert Welch at Fold3

Pvt. William R. Murray, Co. E, 71st New State Militia, On the Battle

25 03 2022



The Men Wanted a Chance to Try It Over the Next Day.

Editor National Tribune: I receive weekly much gratification on reading the National Tribune, and oftimes find myself wondering if we old fellows do not sometimes compel our memories to sustain as facts many events that we have imagined. The impossibility of our placing our squadron, battery or company just where it was renders the effort to do so by another simply absurd. There is something to be remembered in Gen. Grant dedicating his memoir to the soldiers and sailors, because none knew them better than he; yet, the Memoirs are often contradicted by those who must confess that no pen had sone all more justice than hi who let them to final victory. When spoken of by veterans, commanding armies, as the “greatest living soldier,” he never forgot those who enabled him to prove himself the man who could be thus spoken of with truth. I am not going to contradict anything that has been said by another. I am going to state what my mishaps and seeings were in my first battle. The regiment was moving to the front by a wood road in “column of fours” when first subjected to artillery fire, several projectiles going overhead and one ricocheting along the flank of the regimental column, knocking up a dust. I then hear a command of caution. “The first movement will be by the left flank,” and sure enough by a left face we were in line and “forward” brot us out of the wood and to a ridge where a fence had been and beyond a ravine. Then we were facing the enemy. It was a good line, that fired by volley and then “at will.” I have never seen a better. One man I must find fault with; a Sergeant got thru the ranks, advance about three yards and must have masked the fire of four men at least. Fighting as a mob is a crime. I saw no running away. I have had occasion a number of times to tell some that I have my doubts of veterans who have never seen any soldiers but “whose who were running away.” I was thrown forward on my toes by what appeared to me an awfully loud report of a gun at the back of my head, which caused a ringing in my ears, but no damage. The firing ceased and I heard the clear, ringing voice of Col. Henry P. Martin: “It has been reported that we are firing on friends! Advance the colors!” Out went the Stars and Stripes, and the volley that Old Glory got, too high for most of us, settled the question of friends. We advanced to the colors and began again. This time a battalion in gray was coming up the slope led by a field officer with a red sash and on a bay horse. He was bringing up his regiment in good style, was quite near and was, I think, about riding around his right flank to the rear, when his horse gave a pitch forward and both horse and man went down. I have never known what regiment it was, but it quick followed that it was forcibly put out of the fight. The Rhode Island boys were busty to the left of us, and one man in a fence corner, in advance of the general line, was doing remarkably well. The New Hampshire men were near our regiment, and when seen by me were doing well and in good order. I did my level best to fire as fast and often as possible, for we all know it does disconcert one’s aim to be under a direct fire of cannon and musketry. I believe I thought more of that than of killing any one. My only mishap was the dropping of a percussion cap when pulling it thru the lining of lambs-wool of my cap pouch, my finger and thumb being unused to articles so small. Some one at the left and rear said: “I can’t get those —– —– —– men out of that ditch.” I did not turn to see who it was, neither did I see a ditch nor men in one. The firing ceased, and most of the men were sitting, when I strayed over to where one of our howitzers was being worked for dear life, and passed a man lying on his face, dead, I suppose, uniformed with white felt hat, red shirt, and white pants. I know not his regiment. He was on our line near our howitzer and a little to the rear of where the Rhode Island boys were fighting. I did wrong in straggling, but did not do it under fire; besides, I was in plain view and would be taken for a battery support. The Newburg boys of the Howitzer, Co. I, ceased firing, and I had a view of the field that was grand. In front, in the hollow, was a squadron of cavalry as immovable as statues. To its left the marines – I judged it was they, from their white belts – were deployed and going for the timer up the sloe on the opposite side of the hollow. There was nothing in front of us in sight and no firing. Away to the right of the New Hampshire men a caisson team at a gallop was coming obliquely towards our line. Just then a comrade accompanied by a Zouave called to me to come, and I went with them.

I can never forget my mortification and disappointment that night. A begrimed, dirty private, my blouse first wet with perspiration and then covered with dust, the dust making it look like mudarmor. Food in my haversack and no thought of eating. If we could only have another chance! I did than and while life doth last will sympathize with Gen. McDowell, my General, for what must have been his feeling, in comparison, from others not realizing at the proper time where victory was for the taking of it. I was near to committing suicide when in some troops near Fairfax Court House a soldier bawled “Coward!” I did not know the troops. They were closed en masse, resting. There was a quick facing to the left, a Springfield brought to a “ready,” the silence that reigned for a second can be imagined, and the poor, defeated ones passed on – the Zouave, my comrade, and myself.

The presumption that the “Enemy could have marched into Washington that night was brilliant, but void of execution on account of its impracticability.” The men who fought that day would have fought better next day. They would have dropped “well enough” and pressed every advantage gained, aided by fresh troops. Johnston realized it and said it. When one thinks of the military talent and fame acquired after by men who were in that particular battle, it would have been glory enough to have died upon that field – Bull Run.

—– W. R. Murray, 71st N. Y. S. M., Burnside’s Brigade, Hunter’s Division, Army of Gen. McDowell, Brooklyn, N. Y.

National Tribune, 7/25/1907

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William R. Murray at Ancestry

William R. Murray at Fold3

Pvt. Harry Rockafeller, Co. F, 71st New York State Militia, On His Captivity

23 02 2022

Letter from a Prisoner at Manassas. –

The following letter from a young Philadelphian serving in the New York Seventy-first, who was wounded and captured in the late battle, has been received in New York by his mother. As he was in the hospital at Sudley Church, this letter, giving assurance of his safety, also gives assurance that the report of the burning of the church is untrue:

Manassas Junction, July 26th, 1861.

Dear Mother: – Knowing your deep anxiety regarding my welfare, I am happy to say that I am well, except a wound in the left arm, which I may lose. I am in good spirits, treated in the best style, and am in hopes of seeing you all soon. If you have any opportunity of sending a change of clothing please, do so.

Truly your son,
Harry Rockafeller

The Baltimore (MD) Sun, 8/3/1861

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Records for Harry/Henry Rocka/efeller show below, but as a member of the 71st New York Infantry, Co. F. No Rockafeller shows on the roster of the 71st New York Infantry (not present at First Bull Run). State Militia records are notoriously spotty, particularly for militia units that did not enter 3 year service (like the 71st and 69th). As both records showing Rocka/efeller in the 71st NYVI are handwritten, and as Rockefeller’s FindAGrave notes that he was the post-war Colonel of the 71st NYSM, he is considered here a member of Co. F, 71st NYSM at the First Battle of Bull Run.

Henry Rockafeller at Ancestry

Henry Rockafeller at Fold3

Harry Rockefeller at FindAGrave

Boat Howitzers of Co. I, 71st New York State Militia

7 08 2021

I wrote a bit about the newly installed boat howitzers to represent those of Co. I, 71st NYSM, on the left of the James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island battery on Matthews Hill (see here). And I shared a video I shot with Dana Shoaf of Civil War Times magazine and Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies at that site here. The day before that video, I stopped by the guns and took a few photos, which follow.

First, the wayside marker:

Next, a shot from the rear of each gun, looking towards Henry Hill.

You may notice the “hammer locks” on the breeches. One on the left of one gun, and on the right of the other. These guns didn’t use the friction primers that were inserted into holes in the breeches of most other guns you’ve seen. Instead, they had hammers which were brought down to fire these howitzers, similar to a musket. One lock being on the left and one on the right indicates that one of these guns was produced after 1864. Thanks to friend Craig Swain, who wrote about this type of cannon in a series of posts here. Below are a couple of images of the “hammer locks.”

Here’s a head on shot of one of the guns.

Last, here’s a view of the boat howitzers in line with Reynolds’s battery. Beyond is the Sudley Road, and beyond that, on Dogan Ridge, the first positions of Griffin’s and Ricketts’s guns. Take a look that way next time you’re out there. Few ever do.

Anniversary Video with Civil War Times: Matthews Hill, 7/21/2021

23 07 2021

Our first stop on Thursday was the gun line on Matthews Hill. Until just recently, this meant the five James Rifles of Reynolds’s Rhode Island Battery. But just last week two 12-pdr Dahlgren Boat Howitzers were installed at the site of those of the 71st New York State Militia, then under the command of the Captain of Co. I, Augustus Van Horne Ellis (read his brother John’s account of the battle here).

Appearing in this video are Civil War Times Magazine editor Dana Shoaf, Manassas National Battlefield Park superintendent Brandon Bies, and myself. Civil War Times director of photography Melissa Winn is behind the camera.

“Georgie,” Co. I, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle and Retreat

26 06 2020

Washington Navy Yard,
July 22, 1861.

Dear Father: – I telegraphed you yesterday that I was back safe and would write shortly. We had a pretty hard fight – carried most of their fortifications – when they were reinforced by twenty thousand of Johnson’s command, (which Gen. Patterson should have intercepted), and were compelled to retire before such an overwhelming force of fresh troops. – In Company I were lost but three men – one killed and two wounded. They must have been captured during our retreat, as we have heard nothing of them since they were sent to the Hospital. Capt. Ellis, of Co. F, (not our Captain,) was wounded by the explosion of a shell; his father, Dr. Ellis, of New York, is now on here attending to him and his other son who was also wounded. They were both carried off the field by their brother, the Colonel, from California, who came on here to lend a hand and see to his brothers. One was shot down along side of him, and the other he found wounded and senseless along the side of the road, and would have been crushed to death by the retreating teams had it not been for the timely assistance of his brother, who, being a remarkably stout and muscular man, carried him also to the place of safety, and they are now doing well under the medical prescription of their father, the Doctor. Our Captain got knocked down by a spent shot, but was not seriously injured. He is now attending to his brothers.

We have lost both our howitzers, but brought them six miles from the field of action, after the order for our retreat, and then the enemy threw a shell among us, upset the ammunition wagon, dismounted one of the howitzers, and we were compelled to abandon them. The fight commenced at 12 o’clock on Sunday, and lasted till four in the afternoon, when we were ordered to retire. We marched till 12 o’clock the next day with scarcely a halt till we got home, and I can tell you I was pretty well used up. – They say it is a distance of fifty-five miles, and I should say it was at least that, from the way I felt when we got back to our old quarters at the Navy Yard. It was the longest tramp I ever took, and I don’t care about taking such another, especially on a retreat. If it were in pursuit of the traitors, I think I could do it over again without even thinking of getting tired, and I am in hopes I shall yet have the opportunity of trying it.


Newburgh (NY) Daily News, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

* There were at least two men named George in Co. I: Pvt. George Moore, Pvt. George Sterling

Pvt. Samuel Bond, Co. I, 71st New York State Militia, Last Letter

25 06 2020

The Last Letter of Samuel Bond

The following is the last letter written by young Bond, who was killed at the battle of Bull’s Run. It will be read with interest:

Dear Sir: – Your kind letter came duly to hand. As to my desiring another specimen, if it is not repeated I shall feel very much disappointed. To receive a letter from a friend, especially one that is in every way worthy of our friendship, serves in a great measure to lighten our spirits and to inspire us with greater vigor to press on in a cause that is sanctioned by good and true men, and I trust by a God that is the God of Battle as well as of peace. * * * By the time you receive this, perhaps I shall be on my way to Richmond or Manassas Gap. We go to-morrow. I suppose we will act as skirmishers. We will act our part bravely, and try and bring no disgrace to Newburgh. Give my love to all, and keep a share yourself.

From your friend,
Samuel Bond
Co. I, 71st Regt. N. Y. S. M.

Capt. S. T. Harvey

Newburgh (NY) Daily News, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

Samuel Bond at Ancestry 

Samuel Bond at Fold3 

Samuel Bond at FindAGrave

Sgt. William H. Garrison, Co. I, 71st New York State Militia, On the Battle and Company Casualties

25 06 2020

Camp Correspondence.

Washington, D. C., July 23.

Dear General: – We have arrived in Washington very much fatigued. We left our encampment at two o’clock on the morning of the 21st, and arrived at Bull’s Run about half past ten o’clock, A. M. – Then the enemy commenced an attack on our division. Our brigade was in charge of Colonel Burnside, of the Rhode Island 1st Regiment. He ordered us to advance to the top of the hill and commence work. The Seventy-first and the two Rhode Island Regiments made the first attack. The enemy cut down many of our brigade before we fired a shot, but when we did commence we made everything tell. Our company had two Dahlgren 12 pound Howitzers, and used cannister shot on the infantry, and shell on the battery. We drove the enemy down in the woods after they suffered a great loss of men. The 71st lost from fifty to a hundred men. Our company lost Samuel Bond, a little fellow who worked nobly, passing shot and shell, until a rifle shot passing right through his heart, killed him instantly. The wounded are James C. Taggart and John W. R. Mould. Taggart is safe. His wound is a flesh wound, and his is getting along as well as can be expected. Wm. McDonald is missing. When the enemy were reinforced we had to retreat very much against our will. We brought our pieces eight miles, when we had to leave them. We arrived at our old encampment at eight o’clock, P. M., very tired and glad to sit down. Capt. Ellis stood by us in the battle, and cheered the boys on. He sighted the pieces at every shot. He was in the heaviest part of the firing, and was unhurt. The papers have our loss very heavy, which is not correct, according to the reports from the different companies this morning. I will tell you some more of the particulars if I ever get home. Remember me to all enquiring friends.

Yours, &c.,
Wm. H. Garrison.

Gen. S C. Parmenter.

Newburgh (NY) Daily News, 7/26/1861

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Contributed by John Hennessy

William H. Garrison at Ancestry 

William H. Garrison at Fold3 

William H. Garrison at FindAGrave

Cpl. John Fulton, Co. L (Engineers), 14th New York State Militia, On the Campaign

17 06 2020


Camp Porter, Arlington Heights, July 25, 1861.

There is no doubt ere this you have heard about the battle at Bull’s Run. I want to give you some idea about our regiment from the time we left Arlington until we returned back again. We left Camp Porter at half-past 3 P. M. on the 16th, and marched 12 miles where we came to halt withing 7 miles of Fairfax, when we laid down and had some rest. Nothing of any note transpired during our march. We took up the line of march at 8 A. M. on the 17th for Fairfax. About three miles on the road the rebels had cut down a large number of trees to obstruct our march, but our division took the fields. We arrived at Fairfax at 1 P. M. The rebels left Fairfax in double quick time two hours before we got there. We passed four intrenchments that they vacated. We remained at Fairfax until 4 P. M. of the 18th, then took up our line of march for Centreville. We passed a number of encampments that they had set on fire. They left all their food and camp utensils, so you can judge the hurry they were in. We had a good dinner of the fresh beef that they left behind. We came to a halt 1 ½ miles from Centreville; you must understand we had no tents since we left our camp, all we had was the clear blue sky above us. Thank God we had good weather, but the dear lord how hot it was, soaking wet all the time, but we stand it like men so far, not a man lagged behind and all feel anxious to meet the enemy. But last night was the hardest of all nights, such firing of muskets by the ‘great man’ I never heard before, we were up and down all night. We have in our Brigade the 8th N. Y. S. M., Mart Owens’ Regt. 27th New York Volunteers, one regiment of regular and 600 marines from the Navy Yard besides the gallant 14th; also Griffin’s West Point Battery and a troop of cavalry under the command of Brig. Gen. Porter; the division under Gen. McDowell. Tell Mart Owen that Abe Beatty was in our camp on the 19th; Babcock is sick yet, he is not with his regiment. On the 20th two regulars were flogged for desertion one got thirty-five lashes the other fifty, and in ten days to be drummed out of camp. Now comes the tug of war; we left camp at 2 ½ A. M., for Bull’s Run. Nothing of any importance transpired for about three miles, until we came to a bridge that the rebels hart partly destroyed; but we soon repaired it enough to cross. Shortly after we got on the other side of the bridge we met Gen. McDowell; he put us in quick time for two and a half miles, then came to a halt for about ten minutes, and sent scouting parties. Here we were within 1 ½ miles of the enemy – that is, on a line – but we were to march about six miles, so as to surround them. Here we heard the first gun about 8 A. M., and we kept scouting until we passed Bull’s Run stream. Here we saw Gen. McDowell again; we were within 2 ½ miles of the enemy. Now comes the hot time; the order was double-quick, which we kept up for some time, until, pretty nearly played out, we came to another stream, that we had to cross knee-deep. Here all hands took a drink and filled their canteens. We could hear the guns firing like the very devil only half a mile from the enemy; then double-quick again until we arrived on the field of battle; here we took everything off except undershirts and pants; while doing this, the balls were dropping around us like hail. Then it was double-quick again, until we were in front of the enemy. All out things that we left on the field are lost. Our regiment was ordered on the left flank of the enemy. Griffin’s, Sherman’s, and the Rhode Island batteries were doing good work. The 27th Regiment, New York Volunteers, were the first to engage the enemy’s infantry, but had to fall back; then came the orders for the gallant 14th; Gen. McDowell calls on us to charge the enemy, which we did, and drove them to the woods, where they had entrenchments for their men; our men followed them up to the woods; here a number of our men got wounded; then came an order to retreat, which we did in handsome style, but could not draw them from the woods. We now had a rest for about 15 minutes. Then came the 71st and 8th (the 8th reserve for the 71st), when they opened fire with their howitzers, two in number, on the woods where the enemy had retreated, and drove them out towards their masked battery; here was a complete slaughter-house. As soon as our regiment opened fire on their infantry, the masked battery opened fire on them; such slaughter I never want to see again; our men had to lay down to load and fire. Just before we got this position, a shell wounded John Smith and Dick Coles. Inform Louis Buckman about Smith; tell him he is wounded in the knee, but not very serious. Poor Music, I am afraid, is dead; he was seen wounded in two places, on the right shoulder and leg; this I got from one of his messmates, now in the hospital, also wounded. Our hospital is full of wounded. But to return to the battle – at the time our regiment were lying down loading and firing, the Marines were ordered to cover our men, but they made a hasty retreat and left our men to be slaughtered; but the 71st came up and gave our men a chance to retreat, which we did in good order. The fire was too strong for the 71st, and they had to retreat. Shortly after this our regiment was fired into, some say by the 71st, others say the 8th, and our boys returned it, and made them come out of the woods mighty quick. All this time we were carrying the wounded off the field, I had just carried a wounded man up to the hospital when there came news that our Colonel was wounded. Burtis, Briss, Connor, Ritchie and myself went and brought him off the field amid showers of bullets, but, thank God, we came off safe. It was at this time that our army began to retreat, and it became general throughout our lines. We carried our Colonel about two miles on a litter, when we became exhausted and had to set him down, and some of our men took him up and carried him to the bridge that we had repaired when the rebels cut off our retreat, and that is the last we saw of him. Drs. Homiston and Swalm were with him at the time, also Lewis Phillips, Charles Phillips’ brother, and that is the last we saw of them. Bob Webb had his rifle shot out of his hand at the same place. Thank God, our regiment did their duty, they were the last of our division to leave the field; they made 7 distinct charges on the batteries. Our regiment has not been represented in the proper light; I understand the Zouaves got all the credit; they made but one charge, and that was when the Black Horse Cavalry charged upon them, and that was the last. Some of their men were in our ranks and some in the 71st, and others in the 8th, all the rest were up to the hospital, and you could not get them on the field again; they said they would not go on account of having no one to lead them; that their officers were not worth a d—n, that was the expression of them all. Those that were with the 71st, it is said, did very well, but I did not see them. I must close this letter, for the mail is about starting for Washington. There are about 140 men that we cannot account for, and 60 or 70 that we can, which makes 210, yet we have some hopes that these figures will be reduced, and I hope they will. I suppose we will remain here some time to recruit.

John Fulton.

Brooklyn (NY) Daily Eagle, 7/29/1861

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Clear Copy at Newspapers.com 

Contributed by John Hennessy

84th New York Infantry roster (the 14th NYSM became the 84th New York Volunteer Infantry 

John Fulton at Ancestry 

John Fulton at Fold3