History of the 52nd NY


January 1865 to July 1865

In March, the 52nd only had an average strength of 200 men.  On March 28, the Union Army began the campaign that ended the siege of Petersburg.  The 2nd Corps, along with the 5th Corps, three cavalry divisions and three more infantry divisions, massed on the Confederate right and moved on March 29.  The 3rd Brigade crossed Hatchers Run and pushed Confederate pickets over the Boydton Plank Road.  On March 31, they charged the Confederates and broke their lines along the White Oak Swamp Road.  A number of prisoners were taken and three officers of the 52nd were killed.  The 1st Division was sent to help Maj. Gen. Philip Sheridan and his cavalry at Five Forks on April 1, but it was not needed.  The division marched back to where it had been before.  On April 2, the 1st Division attacked Confederate positions at Sutherland Station, along the South Side Railroad.  After being beaten back several times, they captured the position and cut the railroad.  The railroad was the last supply line into Petersburg for the Confederates.  In the fighting, Lt. Col. Karples’ horse was shot and he was temporarily disabled when it fell on him.  In his absence, Maj. Ritzius commanded the 52nd.  On the same day, other portions of the Confederate line fell to Union soldiers.

Though Petersburg fell, there was a lot of confusion in the Union army as to what was going on and what units were under what command.  This prevented the Union from taking even more prisoners.  For the next two days, the 3rd Brigade was in the rear helping with road repair, and only rejoined the 1st Division late on April 4.  From April 5 to April 7, the 52nd acted as skirmishers at Saylers Creek and when crossing the Appomattox River.  They pursed the retreating Confederates until relieved on the 7th.  Lee’s army surrendered on April 9 at Appomattox Court House, Virginia.  The fall of Petersburg and the pursuit of the Army of Northern Virginia had cost the 52nd 73 more casualties.  The 52nd had suffered another 40 casualties while serving on the siege lines at Petersburg.

On April 11, the 2nd Corps moved to Burkeville Junction, Virginia, where they remained until May 2.  They marched to Manchester and crossed the James River on May 6.  They continued through Richmond, their objective since the beginning of the war, and then north to Fredericksburg, passing through many of their old battlefields.  They arrived near Washington, D.C. on May 13.  They settled into camp at Baileys Crossroads on May 15.  On May 23, the Army of the Potomac marched in the Grand Review through Washington, D.C., with the 2nd Corps marching in the rear.  The 2nd Corps held its own review on May 30.  On June 28, the 2nd Corps was disbanded.  On July 1, 1865, the 52nd New York was mustered out of United States service under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Henry Karples.  After nearly four years of service, the regiment was heading home.

The total casualties of the 52nd New York are hard to determine.  Different sources give different numbers, though some of them are close to each other.  The 52nd lost about 14 officers and 138 men killed or mortally wounded, about 105 men who died in prisons, and about 95 men from disease.  This numbers about 350 men of the 52nd who died during the war.  The number of wounded during the war ranges from 400 to more than 700 officers and men.  The number missing and captured is much harder to determine, though it ranges from 115 to almost 300 officers and men.  Out of those, more than 100 would die before they were paroled or the war ended.  The total number of men who served in the regiment is also hard to determine.  Less than 800 men served in the regiment before September 1863.  After the first large group of recruits, new men trickled into the regiment every so often.  A number of men who had enlisted and mustered into the regiment never joined it in the field, as they never showed up to leave the state or deserted somewhere along the route to Virginia.  Despite problems with new recruits and desertions, which were problems that many other regiments faced, the 52nd served well during the war.

            The 52nd New York had fought in every major campaign of the Army of the Potomac during the war.  In many of those battles, it ended up participating in some of the most ferocious fighting.  Though the regiment only spent the war fighting in Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, soldiers of the 52nd spent portions of their service scattered over a far greater range.  Men recovered from wounds or illness in hospitals in Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia and Baltimore.  Others were confined as prisoners in Richmond, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Florida.  A few even ended up farther west, in Ohio and beyond.  Some of them remain there today, buried in the National Cemeteries established near battlefields, major hospitals and prison sites.

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