previous next

Doc. 184.-the revolt in the Seventy-Ninth N. Y. Regiment. August 14, 1861.

The Washington correspondent of the Philadelphia Press, gives some details of the revolt in the Highland regiment.

They were encamped on Meridian Hill, in the suburbs of Washington. I went out to the camp in the course of Wednesday, and found the men more like a mob than a regiment of soldiers. Many of them were intoxicated, having just been paid off, and those who had drank the most were the most turbulent and noisy. A large quantity of liquor had been surreptitiously introduced into the camp, and its use had gone far toward demoralizing the men.

They had been ordered to march into Virginia in the morning, and had positively refused to obey.

Colonel Stevens had been with them during the day, endeavoring to restore peace, but his exertions were of no avail. General Sickles was also present, for the same purpose. At one time a demonstration was made upon Gen. Sickles, but he coolly rode through the mutineers, and, although unarmed, his demeanor prevented them from assaulting him.

A large part of the regiment was disarmed by Gen. Sickles, and the remainder, whom he considered trustworthy, were placed over the encampment as a guard. No persuasion could induce the men to return to their duty, and it was found that nothing but the severest measures would be of any avail. General McClellan directed General Porter, the provost-marshal, to see that discipline was enforced. General Porter ordered out the battalion of the Third regular infantry, two companies of cavalry, and a battery of some six or eight pieces.

The mutineers were encamped on the side of a hill, which was rather sparsely wooded. The cavalry first came on the ground, and one of the companies formed on the hill top. The infantry marched past, and were drawn up on the side of the hill, the line extending to the base, and at an angle with the horsemen. The command was then given by Colonel Stevens to the Seventy-ninth to fall in, and was obeyed with some reluctance. The line was formed on the road at the bottom of the hill and the regiment marched up toward Fourteenth street, with colors flying and band playing.

A few were so intoxicated that they could not obey the orders, and they were left on the field to be arrested by the patrol. The regiment marched up the road in tolerable good order, although the soldiers manifested a defiant and disagreeable spirit. The cavalry and infantry followed them until they arrived on Fourteenth street, where the order was given to halt.

They halted on a part of the street sparsely inhabited, and about the distance of a furlong from their encampment. After the Seventy-ninth had halted, the cavalry rode over into the meadow about fifty paces from the road, and formed in a line parallel with the road. The infantry then came up, and formed in line at right angles with the cavalry, and extending across the road into the meadow on each side. The mutinous regiment was directed to form in line on the side of the road, parallel with the cavalry. The regular battalion was then marched up the road and formed on the other side of the street, immediately opposite and facing the Seventy-ninth, while the cavalry retired to a more distant part of the meadow.

The lines having been formed, General Porter and his staff, accompanied by Colonel Stevens, rode up to the centre. After a moment or two of delay, an aid of General Porter read the orders of General McClellan in a remarkably clear and distinct tone of voice. He stated that he had heard with pain and sorrow of the disaffection which existed among the members of the Seventy-ninth regiment; that he had listened attentively to their alleged grievances, and, after examining them with care, was compelled to say that they were of the most frivolous character.

At a time like this, when the country needed the services of her children, the exhibition of such a spirit as that manifested by the Seventy-ninth could only come from the basest motives which could actuate the soldier, and would lead [528] to the belief that their conduct was prompted by cowardice. As a punishment, he ordered that the regiment should be deprived of its colors until, by future good behavior and honorable service on the field of battle, its soldiers showed themselves worthy to bear them. The ringleaders of the mutiny were to be placed in arrest, and the regiment was to be ordered to fall in by company and march to the quarters assigned them in Virginia, and if they refused to obey this order, they were to be fired upon. The scene during the reading was exceedingly impressive. The sun was just going down, and in the hazy, uncertain twilight, the features and forms of officers and men could scarcely be distinguished. Immediately behind his aid was General Porter, firm and self-possessed. Col. Stevens was in front of his own regiment, endeavoring to quiet his rather nervous horse. In the rear of the regulars, and a little distance apart, General Sickles sat carelessly on horseback, coolly smoking a cigar and conversing with some friends. At one time during the reading, a murmur passed through the line of its mutineers, and when that portion of the order directing the regiment to surrender its colors was read, a private in one of the rear companies cried out in broad Scotch tones--“Let's keep the colors, boys!” No response was made by the remainder of the regiment. Major Sykes at once rode up the line to where the voice was heard. It would have been more than that soldier's life was worth, had he been discovered at the moment, in pistol range, by any of the officers. After the orders had been read, General Porter said to Colonel Stevens, “Point out the leaders.” A squad of men were detailed from the battalion to accompany the colonel, who went from company to company and designated the obnoxious members. They were marched to the rear to the number of forty or fifty, and placed under arrest. This operation took some time, and it was dark before the arrest was completed. The final order was then given to wheel by company into column and march to the quarters in Virginia.

This was the order which they had disobeyed in the morning, and which, if again disobeyed, would have been followed by a fire from the regular infantry. There seemed to be a moment's delay, but the mutinous volunteers, evidently seeing that resistance was useless, reluctantly obeyed, and took up the line of march to their quarters. The arrested leaders were taken to the guard house, while the remainder of the regiment was escorted by the cavalry and the battery.

The news of this disaffection has created a deep feeling of grief among the friends of the Seventy-ninth. A strict investigation will be entered into, and some of the ringleaders may be shot, as an example to this and other regiments. The firm stand taken by General McClellan is universally applauded. He is determined that discipline shall be maintained, and, no matter at what cost, his orders must be respected. The presence of such a large force evidently overawed the mutinous regiment, for there was that in the tone of the general's orders, and the manner of those deputed to execute them, which showed that they were in earnest.

Order read to the Seventy-Ninth.

The following is the order read to the Seventy-ninth N. Y. regiment:

The General Commanding has heard with the deepest pain of the acts of insubordination on the part of the Seventy-ninth regiment. Without attempting to enter into a discussion of the causes, it is sufficient to say that they are frivolous and groundless.

That these acts have thrown disgrace upon the regiment and the service, and taking place at this time, they give rise to the strongest suspicions of the most abject cowardice. The regiment has forced upon the Commanding General an issue which he is prepared to meet.

The men are ordered to lay down their arms and return to duty. All those refusing to do so will be fired upon immediately. If they comply with the order, the ringleaders only will be punished.

The colors of the regiment are taken from them, and will be returned only when their conduct in camp shall have proven that they understand the first duty of a soldier — obedience: and when, on the field of battle, they shall have proved their bravery. The names of the leaders in this revolt will be sent to the Governor of New York, to be placed in the archives of the State. A court-martial will be held forthwith.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide Places (automatically extracted)

View a map of the most frequently mentioned places in this document.

Sort places alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a place to search for it in this document.
Washington (United States) (2)
Meridian Hill (United States) (1)

Download Pleiades ancient places geospacial dataset for this text.

hide People (automatically extracted)
Sort people alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a person to search for him/her in this document.
A. B. Porter (6)
C. H. Stevens (5)
Sickles (4)
George B. McClellan (3)
George Sykes (1)
Doc (1)
hide Dates (automatically extracted)
Sort dates alphabetically, as they appear on the page, by frequency
Click on a date to search for it in this document.
August 14th, 1861 AD (1)
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: