The 111th New York Volunteer Infantry: A Civil War History
By Martin W. Husk
(May 2010 Civil War News)
Illustrated, maps, appendix, endnotes, bibliography, index, softcover, 248 pp., 2010. McFarland, www.mcfarlandpub.com, $39.95 plus shipping.
The 111th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment was mustered into service in response to Lincoln’s 1862 call for 300,000 volunteers. The men were primarily recruited from the central New York counties of Wayne and Cayuga. The regiment was mustered and fought in the ranks of the Army of the Potomac until the conclusion of the Civil War.
The author became interested in the 111th while attempting to locate information as he researched his family’s history. Martin W. Husk discovered a reference to an ancestor who was the last commander of the 111th New York. This discovery resulted in a quest to learn more about Lewis Husk and his men, and eventually in his writing this regimental history.
The 111th New York had a somewhat unusual history. Recruited in the summer of 1862, the regiment was sent to Baltimore, then directly to Harpers Ferry in response to Lee’s invasion of Maryland.
The regiment lacked training and the men were short on military experience. While at Harpers Ferry the men had the misfortune to be part of the garrison’s massive surrender to Stonewall Jackson’s veterans. The central New Yorkers were marched to Annapolis and then shipped by rail to suffer the humiliation of being interned as parolees in the Union’s POW Camp Douglas in Illinois.
Upon their release, the regiment was eventually brigaded with three other New York regiments, the 39th, 125th and 126th, who all suffered the same fate following their capture at Harpers Ferry. The brigade received the unjustly deserved moniker, “The Harpers Ferry Cowards.”
Brigaded under George Willard into the Second Corps, the 111th experienced their first combat at Gettysburg where they fought with great distinction on July 2 and 3. There the regiment suffered approximately 70 percent casualties, 246 of 310, losing 15 of 18 officers.
The regiment marched and fought with the Second Corps from Bristoe Station through the Overland Campaign, the siege of Petersburg, and finally the pursuit and surrender at Appomattox.
Author Martin W. Husk, a project engineer for the United States Environmental Protection Agency, lives in Carey, N.C. This is his first book. He states his two-fold purpose in the preface. Primarily, he “let the soldiers tell the story of their regiment in their own words.” Second, “the book would not be a recounting of the war or a social narrative of the times. It would have to be a history of battles in which these brave men fought.”
The author has very successfully achieved both of his goals. He provides a detailed regimental military history through the words of its men woven into a crisp and clearly constructed narrative. Husk uses a wide range of primary sources, especially from the National Archives, The U.S. Army Military History Institute and the National Military Park libraries at various sites.
The text is accompanied by a large number of period photographs, many published here for the first time. A series of seven well-presented and easy-to-read maps drawn by the author greatly enhance the effectiveness of the narrative.
An appendix details the nightmarish experiences of the 83 men captured in October 1864 and their eventual confinement in Salisbury Prison, North Carolina. A second appendix reveals the monthly regimental strength of the 111th New York from 1862 to 1865.
The 111th New York Volunteer Infantry is the first regimental history of this unit, and it will long remain the seminal study. A true military history written from the perspective of the soldier in the ranks, this book should be read by anyone interested in Civil War regiments.
It is especially important for its very detailed account of the actions on July 2 and 3 at Gettysburg. The 111th New York Volunteer Infantry is highly recommended.
Reviewer: Michael Russert
Michael Russert, a member of the North Shore Round Table of Long Island and the Company of Military Historians, has a MALS plus 60 hours in American Studies. He is Coordinator of The New York State Veteran Oral History Program