Thursday, 18 July 2013 00:00
(Editor’s note: At the Village Pops Concert at the Farmingdale Village Green on Wednesday, July 3, Serena Carter Brochu, a long time Farmingdale resident, and graduate of Farmingdale High School’s class of 1983 delivered this speech. The “Minute of History,” is a series of speeches delivered at the Pops Concerts throughout the summer.)
Today marks the 150th anniversary of the final day of the Battle of Gettysburg, which took place from July 1st through July 3rd 1863. The battle, fought during some of the hottest days of the summer, engaged over 158,000 soldiers with estimated casualties of 51,000. Of all the participating states, New York State sent the most men into the battle, with nearly 28,000; one-fourth of whom were either killed, wounded, captured, or reported missing.
The Battle of Gettysburg took place in southern Pennsylvania just weeks after the Confederate victory at Chancellorsville, Virginia. With the Confederate Army in high spirits, General Robert E. Lee took his army to replenish its supplies and to move the fighting to the North. Among Lee’s goals were to threaten Northern cities and to win a major battle on Northern soil. With its well-developed road system and plentiful farmland, Gettysburg attracted Lee’s attention.
Although the first two days of the battle proved successful for the Confederates, the Union Army, under the command of Major General George Meade, ultimately fought off the Confederates on July 3rd who then retreated back to Virginia. The battle devastated the town and residents of Gettysburg. Every field became a cemetery; every building became a hospital. Surprisingly, there was but one civilian casualty—Jennie Wade, aged 20.
On Memorial Day, 2011, a Civil War Monument was dedicated here in the Farmingdale Village Green which honors the men from our community who served during that war. A number of the men honored by that monument belonged to regiments that saw action at the Battle of Gettysburg.
The 145th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry was part of the Twelfth Army Corps, First Division, First Brigade under the command of Colonel E. Livingston Price. Of the regiment’s 245 men present at the battle, one was killed while 9 were wounded. When the regiment arrived at Gettysburg late in the afternoon on July 1st, it was positioned on Culp’s Hill. There, the regiment assisted in putting up the chest-high fortifications that would protect the Union Army defenders from enemy fire. Culp’s Hill and Cemetery Hill were of key importance to the Union position and protected the Baltimore Pike, which was considered to be the Union Army’s lifeline. On the 3rd of July, the regiment assisted in driving out the Confederate troops that had taken possession of these fortifications the day before.
On August 21, 1862, a group of young men from the Farmingdale community enlisted with this regiment in Oyster Bay. They were: Philip Darby, Silas Haff, John Hendrickson, Zachariah Hendrickson, William McVeagh, William Murphy, Harlan Newcomb, Andrew Powell, John Powell, Theodore Smith, Alfred Walters, Cornelius Walters, and William Wood. By trade, these men were farmers, laborers, shoemakers, a wheelwright, a blacksmith, and a railroad worker.
The 119th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry was part of the Eleventh Army Corps, Third Division, Second Brigade under the command of Colonel John T. Lockman and Lt. Col. Edward F. Lloyd. It seems clear that this regiment saw heavy fighting given that of the regiment’s 300 men present at the battle, 11 were killed while another 129 men were wounded, captured, or reported missing. Andrew Conklin from the Farmingdale area was one of the wounded. Prior to the war, he worked as a farm laborer.
The 1st New York Lincoln Cavalry, while not actively engaged in the Battle of Gettysburg, served an important function nonetheless. During the battle, the regiment’s various companies were scattered throughout the surrounding countryside performing reconnaissance activities. For example, a particular scouting mission focused on how, and where, General Lee had crossed the Potomac River and what guards were stationed there. The mission resulted in the destruction of a bridge that would have been used by the rebels as a retreat path for their infantry, artillery, and wagons.
German-born Charles P. Scheuer from Farmingdale was a member of this regiment, having mustered in as a bugler on July 19, 1861. He was appointed a wagoner in October 1862 and mustered out on August 20, 1864 at Harper’s Ferry, Virginia. He was a butcher by trade.
Colonel E. Livingston Price, commander of the 145th Regiment, New York Volunteer Infantry, made these comments in his report on the Battle of Gettysburg: “Thus for four days and three nights were the men of my command subjected to the severest hardships, besides trials and dangers of almost every description; yet throughout all I cannot but speak in the highest terms of both the officers and men of my command. All behaved with a nobleness of spirit well worthy of record; each and every one seemed aware of the great issues involved, and the importance of the struggle in which they were engaged.”
The soldiers from the Farmingdale community seemed to have led ordinary lives. However, 150 years ago on the battlefield at Gettysburg and its surroundings, they were called upon to perform extraordinary duties. Like many thousands of soldiers, their service helped to preserve the Union during those three days in July 1863.