Friday, July 3, 2015

152 years ago today, the third bloody day of the battle of Gettysburg was being fought. Please take time today to think about all those who died and those who suffered in battle and at home.  This defining battle raged on for 3 days, often of hand-to-hand combat by our ancestors. The Civil War Trust estimates over 51,000 soldiers were killed, wounded, missing in action or captured during this horrific battle.

The 111th NY Volunteers, recruited primarily from Cayuga and Wayne Counties, showed great valor in their post at Gettysburg while taking heavy losses. Two officers and 59 enlisted men were confirmed dead; of the men who were wounded 24 died while 145 enlistees recovered, along with 8 officers. Another 10 enlisted men were listed as missing after the battle.

The 44th NY Volunteers, or Ellsworth’s Avengers, saw fierce fighting during Gettysburg and the Civil War in general. Colonel Elmer Ellsworth was reputed to be the first casualty of the Civil War, and the 44th was raised in Albany as a memorial unit composed of men from each town. Each unmarried and temperate man who applied for consideration also had to provide $20 (about $500 in today's dollars) for the privilege of joining the unit. 
The 44th participated in and acquitted themselves well at many battles during the course of the Civil War, although they often saw heavy losses. Their monument at Little Round Top in Gettsyburg is a final testament to their bravery on the field. 
One local soldier of the 44th was James Benton Hitchcock, who became a member of the Selah Cornwell GAR Post out of Scipio NY after the war, and served as a Town Justice in Scipio for over 20 years. His name appears as Quartermaster Sergeant on the monument at Gettysburg, on Little Round Top. 

At the battle of Malvern Hill, 99 of the 225 soldiers of the 44th engaged in battle were killed or wounded. James Hitchcock was seriously wounded at the Malvern Hill battle, taking one minie ball in his left thigh while another broke his leg just below the knee. Despite these injuries, James managed to carry the unit flag to his commanding officer, after 4 other color bearers had already been killed in action. James earned a commendation and promotion for his valiant efforts. The colors were an important rallying point and guide star for the unit, as well as serving the field commanders by allowing them to see at any given time where their troops stood on the field of battle.

I can only imagine the fortitude and bravery of this man, who had immigrated to America as a teenager with his family and just eleven years later became a soldier in the Union Army during the Civil War. 

Here is a photo of the monument at Little Round Top, Gettysburg, battlefield for the 44th NY as well as a photo of James taken at the time of the Civil War.

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