The 7th NY and the 7th NY Veterans


The 7th New York, and its successor regiment, the 7th New York Veterans, had no relation to the 7th New York State Militia or National Guard regiment.  The 7th New York Militia, one of the premier militia units in the state, was from New York City and formed in 1806 during a time of crisis with the British.  It was one of the first units to respond to Lincolns call for men after the attack on Fort Sumter in 1861 and one of the first to arrive in Washington, D.C.  It was called up for service again in 1862 and 1863 and helped restore order in New York City during the draft riots.  However, it would not see any action against the Confederates during the war.  The 7th New York was a volunteer regiment comprised of Germans raised just after the start of the war.  The 7th New York Veterans was raised in 1864 from some of the veterans of the 7th New York and served until the end of the war.

The 7th New York was mustered in on April 23, 1861 in New York City.  All the companies had been recruited in New York City, except for Company I, which had been recruited in Brooklyn.  The regiment was comprised entirely of Germans.  It was nicknamed the Steuben Guard or the Steuben Regiment, after Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, the German general who helped build and train the Continental Army during the American Revolution.  Under its first colonel, John E. Bendix, the regiment left New York on May 24.  It was assigned to the Department of Virginia and sent to Newport News, Virginia, where it was stationed until March 1862.  Col. Bendix resigned in August 1861 to become the commanding officer of the 10th New York, and Lt. Col. Edward Kapff was promoted to Colonel and command of the regiment.  Col. Kapff would resign in February 1862, and George Von Schack would take his place as the regimentís colonel.  Only joining the regiment in July as its Major, he would remain the regimentís colonel until its muster out.  Born in Berlin in 1827, he had served as a cavalry officer in the Prussian Army and had come to the United States to gain military experience.

During its service at Newport News, the 7th participated in several skirmishes and suffered only a few casualties.  They first met the Confederates at Big Bethel, Virginia on June 10, 1861 in an attempt to disrupt Confederate forces in the area and prevent them from building fortifications.  On July 12, 2 officers and about 25 enlisted men were sent out to cut wood, but they strayed farther away from the Union lines than they were ordered and were attacked by a large Confederate force.  Both officers and almost half the enlisted men were captured while the rest scattered.  However, the majority of the time was quiet, and the 7th was able to recruit more soldiers in New York City.  It had mustered in with only about 800 men.  One notable event was the loss of one man wounded to a shell fired by the CSS Virginia on March 8, 1862, the same day it sank the USS Cumberland and burned the USS Congress at Hampton Roads, Virginia.  The next day the Virginia had its famous battle with the USS Monitor.  Private Christian Steirlen of Company A had his leg amputated and was discharged for disability in July.

In May 1862, the 7th was transferred from its quiet post to the Army of the Potomac.  At the time, the army was involved in the Peninsula Campaign, northwest of Newport News, Virginia.  It was assigned to the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, 2nd Corps, under Brig. Gen. John Caldwell, where it would remain until it mustered out.  While in the 1st Brigade, the 7th fought alongside soon to be famous officers like Edward Cross, Nelson Miles and Francis Barlow.  The regiment first fought with the Army of the Potomac during the Seven Days Battles at the end of June.  It was lightly engaged until the final day, July 1, 1862, when it suffered more than 70 casualties at Malvern Hill.  After running out of ammunition during the battle, it held its position for another two hours until relieved.  The 7th remained at Harrisonís Landing, Virginia, until the middle of August, when it moved to Northern Virginia with the rest of the 2nd Corps.

It marched north into Maryland in pursuit of Gen. Robert E. Lee and fought at Antietam on September 17, 1862.  Under the command of Captain Charles Brestel, the senior officer of the regiment present, the regiment fought at the Sunken Road.  The 1st Brigade relieved the 2nd Brigade after its attack and fought until part of it broke the Confederate line.  The right flank of the Confederates collapsed and they retreated out of the road.  By then, the left flank of the Confederates had also given way.  The 7th pursued them across the road and into the cornfields of the Piper Farm.  During this advance, a blast of canister at 75 feet, aimed at the color guard, killed 6 men and wounded 9 more.  The reforming Confederates counter-attacked and pushed the tired and disorganized Union soldiers back towards the road.  They remained there under artillery fire until the end of the day.  The 7th suffered 61 casualties.

After Antietam, they moved to Harpers Ferry, Virginia and stayed there until the end of October.  In November, they moved to Falmouth, Virginia and spent the next several weeks waiting.  On December 12, the 7th crossed the Rappahannock River and entered Fredericksburg and spent the night in the city.  The next day, the 1st Brigade was the third and final brigade of the 1st Division to attack.  Advancing over the casualties and men of the 3rd Division and the rest of the 1st Division, they advanced up Maryes Heights and were stopped by the same heavy Confederate fire that had stalled previous attacks.  Retreating down the hill a bit, the 7th took cover along a set of railroad tracks with other men of the brigade.  Caldwell, wounded during the later part of the battle, gave command of the brigade to Von Schack.  Von Schack was wounded as well, but took command anyway and remained on the field.  Once the sun set, the 7th moved back into the city, and eventually, back over the river.  The 7th suffered almost 250 casualties, including 10 officers killed or mortally wounded, and 6 others, including Col. Von Schack, wounded.  The heavy losses in officers necessitated the promotion of a number of sergeants on that day or over the next several weeks.  Despite his wound, Von Schack would have command of the brigade until Caldwell returned in February 1863.

The regiment spent the winter camped near Falmouth.  On April 26, 1863, the 7th New York was sent home to New York City to muster out.  The regiment had enlisted for only two years and went home as the majority of the army prepared for the Chancellorsville Campaign.  The 7th arrived in the city on April 28 with the 8th New York, another German regiment, and mustered out on May 8.

However, this was not the end of the 7th.  The regiment had been recruiting throughout 1862, and though most of the men recruited still mustered out with the regiment, there were some men who had served less than a year as of April 1863.  These men, about 60 in number, were transferred to the 52nd New York.  The 52nd, the only other German regiment in the 2nd Corps, and a fellow New York regiment, was a logical unit to assign them to.  Some of these men were not pleased they had to stay in the army and deserted.  Others transferred into the Veteran Reserve Corps.

Col. Von Schack did not see the muster out of his regiment as the end either.  On May 6, 1863, two days before the 7th New York was to muster out, he was given authority to reorganize the 7th to serve another three years.  Von Schack would serve as Colonel.  Lt. Col. Frederick Gaebel, Major Charles Brestel, and Surgeon Charles Gray would continue in their previous ranks and positions.  First Lieutenant Peter Hesse, who had earlier served in the 7th, was appointed the new Adjutant.  The only newcomer was Quartermaster F. Myone.  However, Von Schack was unable to recruit enough men, and the reorganization was discontinued on October 14, 1863.  The men recruited were transferred to the 178th New York and formed its Company G.

Some of those who were going to serve as officers in the reorganized 7th New York accepted positions in the 52nd New York.  Count Herman Von Haake had been mustered in as the Second Lieutenant of Company F in January 1863, and accepted the same rank in the 52nd in December 1863.  Bernhardt Von Knobelsdorf had enlisted as a private in December 1862, and mustered out with the regiment as a second lieutenant in May 1863.  He joined the 52nd in December 1863 with the same rank.  G. Augustus Engel enlisted with the 7th as a sergeant in April 1861, and mustered out as a first lieutenant.  He declined a position in the 52nd.  Von Schack was offered the vacant position of Lieutenant Colonel in the 52nd in the winter of 1863, but he declined.

George Von Schack probably declined because he had other plans.  Once again, he was given permission to reorganize his old regiment for service.  In the spring of 1864, he began to recruit the 7th New York again.  The regiment formed on Harts Island, on the western end of the Long Island Sound.  Company A mustered in on March 29, Company B on May 1, Company C on June 4 and Company D on July 15.  The other six companies would muster in throughout the rest of the summer and early fall, until the muster in of Company K on October 31.  The 7th New York Veterans were recruited not only from New York City, but also from Brooklyn, Albany, Jamaica, Tarrytown, Poughkeepsie, Goshen, Schenectady, Kingston and Troy.  The men were mostly, if not almost all, German.  A number of the officers had served in other units that were wholly German or had sizable German elements, including the 4th New York Cavalry, the 1st New York Artillery Battalion and the 7th, 8th, 20th, 29th, 45th, 46th, 54th and 119th New York infantry regiments.  One former officer of the 52nd, Assistant Surgeon Peter Reuss, became the surgeon of the 7th Veterans in September 1864 and mustered out with the regiment in 1865.  The last four companies were mustered in for only one year of service, while the other companies were comprised of men who had enlisted for either one, two or three years.

As each of the first three companies mustered in, they were sent to Virginia and attached to the 52nd New York.  They served with the 52nd until the arrival of Company D in July.  Though the 52nd was involved in very bloody fighting at the Wilderness, Spotsylvania, and the opening battles at Petersburg and suffered many casualties, the 7th lost only 4 men.  The large difference in casualties would suggest the 7th was not in the battle line.  On July 22, 1864, with the arrival of Company D, the other three companies of the 7th New York Veterans were detached from the 52nd and became a separate unit.  George Von Schack was only commissioned a Lieutenant Colonel since his unit consisted of only several companies, a battalion, and not a full regiment of ten companies.  Those surviving men of the 7th New York that were still in the 52nd were transferred to the 7th New York Veterans.

The 7th New York Veterans remained in the Consolidated Brigade with the 52nd.  They participated in the fighting at Deep Bottom in July and again in August (also known as Strawberry Plains).  They suffered 27 casualties at Deep Bottom in August.  At Reams Station on August 25, part of the line of the Consolidated Brigade broke under the Confederate assault.  Some sources blame the 7th New York Veterans, the 39th New York and the 52nd New York, while some blame the 125th and 126th New York regiments.  It may have been both groups, or only some of the regiments.  The 7th Veterans lost 60 men.  During the fall of 1864, the 7th Veterans seemed to work often with the 52nd in garrisoning forts and holding picket lines.  In November, with the arrival of his last company, Von Schack was promoted to Colonel.

At the end of March 1865, the Confederate lines around Petersburg collapsed after heavy fighting.  In the fighting during the fall of Petersburg and the pursuit of Lee to Appomattox, the 7th Veterans suffered another 114 casualties.  After the surrender, the 7th Veterans participated in the Grand Review in Washington, D.C.  On June 28th, the 2nd Corps was disbanded.  Instead of mustering out in Virginia like the 52nd, the 7th New York Veterans were sent back to New York City.  They finally mustered out on August 4, 1865 on Harts Island.  George Von Schack was brevetted as a Brigadier General in recognition of his service during the war.

Like the 52nd New York, the losses for the 7th New York and the 7th New York Veterans are also hard to determine.  Over 100 men were killed or mortally wounded in the 7th New York, including 14 officers.  Over 250 were wounded.  More than 50 died of disease and several died in Southern prisons.  The number of men who were listed as captured or missing ranges from about 40 to almost 80.  The 7th NY Veterans, serving less than a year before the end of the war, suffered fewer casualties.  About 50 men and officers were killed or mortally wounded, and over 100 were wounded.  More than 50 died of disease and 9 died in Southern prisons.  About 50 were captured or listed as missing.      

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