Recounted Civil War
It appears that at least one addition local man went to war on
behalf of the Union, Edmund A. Cartwright. He appears only in the History
of Suffolk County and his name is not on the War Memorial.
At the age of 87, William M. Halsey, who after the
war made his living farming and as janitor for the school for 18 years,
related his experiences which are on record at the Shelter Island Historical
žIn the spring or early summer of the year of 1862,
President Lincoln issued an order for three hundred thousand men. On the
25th day of August, I enlisted, and on the 1st of September of that year,
I was mustered into the service to serve three years of the war in Company
K, 127th Regiment, New York Infantry.
žDuring the winter of 1862 and 1863, we were employed
in Virginia making fortifications, being drilled and doing picket duty
in front of Washington, DC.
žWhen the Spring campaign opened, our regiment with
several others attached to our brigade, were sent to Suffolk, Virginia
in April. We soon has an army there of 50,000. The confederate general
Longstreet had a large force along the Nansemond River. While there we
had a battle with him, the result was he retreated and went across the
žFrom there we were sent up the Peninsula and remained
there for some time, until Lee had moved his army north and the Battle
of Gettysburg was going on. Then we were ordered to Washington and joined
MeadŪs army. žAfter that campaign, our regiment with others was sent
to South Carolina on the islands around Charleston. Our duty there was
picket duty nights, much of the time on the rivers in boats.
žGeneral Foster commanding in front of Charleston
had gathered up a force of 5,000 men. He sent out General J. P. Hatch to
seize the Charleston and Savannah Railroad. His guide had missed his way
and did not reach the railroad. The next morning, November 30th, we were
sent out on the skirmish line, forced the enemy back. At 11 a.m. The battle
was on and lasted all day. When we reached Honey Hill we found a strong
force entrenched. We had 3,000 engaged in the battle and lost 746 killed
and wounded. Three men next to me were killed from one charge of Cannister.
When night came on, the firing ceased and we gathered up the wounded; the
dead were left on the field. We fell back about a mile,
and stopped there for the night.
žSeveral days later, General Foster sent two brigades
across the Goosewhatchee to Devaux Neck under General Potter. There we
ran into some Georgia troops, and [they] were soon dispersed, having their
dead and battle flag in our hands.
žTwo days later we made an attack on them. We had
lost quite a number of our company and this morning we started out with
40 men. Our company and I were on the left of the line and a part of the
time they had a raking fire on us and our loss was severe.
žAfter the battle that night, at roll call, there
were only seven left to answer to their names. All the rest were either
killed or wounded. I was wounded and several balls went through my clothing.
žSoon after this, General Sherman came up the coast
from Savannah and we kept along the railroad with our little army, when
Sherman struck out to the interior part of the state. When we arrived in
Charleston which was the first part of March our regiment was detailed
to do provost duty and remained there until we were ordered home to be
mustered out of service.Ó
Halsey was a volunteer in the 127th Army Infantry.
A greater number of men from Suffolk County enlisted in the 127th than
in any other regiment. Several companies in the 127th were almost entirely
made up of men from Southold, the Hamptons, and Huntington.
The Historical Society recently came into possession
of letters from Dr. Jonathan Havens Case, a military doctor stationed at
Carver Hospital in Washington, DC, to his parents in Peconic from early
1862 to early 1864. Most of the letters begin with a report on his brother
Wick whose life was similar to HalseyŪs in the winter of 1862-63.