Ed Rutan and Brian Dawe have been Civil War buffs since their high school days together nearly fifty years ago. Ed is the great-great grandson of James C. Rutan, Company A, 179th New Volunteers.
The purpose of this website is to support writing a regimental history of the 179th New York Volunteers. Much of the website is still “under construction,” particularly with respect to maps and photos. Comments may be provided on the blog: 179thnyvolunteers.blogspot.com
A barebones pamphlet-sized history of the regiment was published in 1900 – History of the 179th Regiment N.Y.S.V. : Rebellion of 1861-65, E.D. Norton, Printer, Ithaca, New York, but the soldiers of the 179th deserve much more than that. The objective of this project is to take a different approach to regimental history.
This project is different from the traditional regimental history in two ways.
First, the scope of the project is much broader. The military part of the history is not limited to just the battles; it will also cover in detail the experiences of the soldiers of the 179th relating to recruiting, desertion, prisoners of war, medical care and transportation and supply logistics. Social, cultural, and political history will include discussion of the role of religion in the lives of the soldiers of the 179th, the 'good death', support from the home front, the pension system, and the 1864 election. These subjects are presented in short subject matter chapters mixed in with the overall chronological flow.
This project is also different from the traditional regimental history in its intent to fully utilize electronic information capabilities. Electronic capabilities will advance the project in three ways:
- Increased Visual Capability. Maps, photos, and other visual aids are critical to a fuller understanding of the battles and other aspects of the soldiers' experiences. A website can provide a much richer array of user friendly visual materials than the traditional printed page.
Good maps are essential to military history. See, for example, those provided in Chapter 8.
The universe of contemporary sketches and photographs directly related to the experience of the 179th New York Volunteers is much larger than might at first appear. The 'special artists' who covered the war for publications such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper were both prolific and seemingly ubiquitous. For example, the soldiers of the Ninth Corps' Second Division (including the 179th New York) were assembled on October 14, 1864 to witness the execution of a deserter from the 2nd Maryland. Company D's John Andrews described the scene in detail in his War Journal. Joseph Becker from Frank Leslie's Newspaper was also present to sketch it. The 179th New York boarded the John Brooks at Alexandria on May 30, 1864 to head to the front. A photographer took a photo of the Quartermaster's Wharf at Alexandria in 1864 with the John Brooks tied up in the center.
The place where the 179th crossed the James River on the march to Petersburg is shown in a contemporary map, a contemporary sketch and a contemporary photo.
- Pre-Publication Vetting. A full table of contents of the proposed regimental history is provided here. Your comments on the TOC are welcome and may be provided on the Blog. Similarly, individual chapters are posted for comment as drafting has reached an advanced stage. Again, the Blog is available for comments.
Full Table of Contents (February 1, 2014)
Preface: Why Should the Reader Be Interested in the 179th New York Volunteers?
Chapter 1: Citizen Soldiers and the Civil War Draft and Bounty System
Chapter 2: Motivations
Chapter 3: Raising the 179th New York Volunteers – Phase I
Chapter 4: The Home Towns
Chapter 5: The 179th New York Volunteers Moves South
Chapter 6: Bounty Jumpers
Chapter 7: Grant's Grand Strategy and the Petersburg Campaign
Chapter 8: On to Petersburg – And the 179th New York's First Battle
Chapter 9: A Fallen Officer Returns Home: The Loyal Soldier and the 'Good Death'
Chapter 10: The Siege of Petersburg Begins
Chapter 11: The Regimental Surgeon, Military Hospitals and the Threats of Disease and Infection
Chapter 12: Deserter or Prisoner of War?
Chapter 13: The Soldiers' Vices: Demon Whiskey, Drugs, Sutlers' Treats and Prostitutes
Chapter 14: The Battle of the Crater (July 30, 1864)
Chapter 15: The Court Martial of A Citizen Soldier
Chapter 16: Racial and Ethnic Attitudes
Chapter 17: August 1864: The 179th’s Low Point
Chapter 18: A Regiment At Last! Raising the 179th New York Volunteers – Phase 2
Chapter 19: Poplar Spring Church (September 29 and October 2, 1864)
Chapter 20: Prisoners of War
Chapter 21: The Regimental Chaplain and Religious Faith
Chapter 22: Ties with Home
Chapter 23 Fall Camp at Pegram's Farm
Chapter 24: Desertion from the Front, from Hospital, From Sick Leave and from Furlough
Chapter 25: The 1864 Election and Allegations of Voter Fraud in the 179th New York Volunteers
Chapter 26: Winter Camp Near Hancock Station: The End in Sight
Chapter 27: The Fall of Petersburg (April 1 to 3, 1865)
Chapter 28: Pursuing the Army of Northern Virginia
Chapter 29: The Changing Face in Battle of the 179th New York Volunteers
Chapter 30: Basking in the Glory of Victory: The Grand Review and Coming Home
Chapter 31: Citizens Again
Chapter 32: Comrades Forever: The Grand Army of the Republic and Reunions of the 179th New York Volunteers
Chapter 33: Conclusion
- Participation By Private Collectors. Public collections, such as the National Archives, libraries and historical societies, have been – and will continue to be – searched for materials relating to the 179th New York Volunteers. However, there undoubtedly are many diaries, letters and other contemporary source materials in private collections not known or accessible to the general public. By making this project available to a wide audience through the Internet, private collectors hopefully will become aware of the project and will be able to see the value that their materials could add to the regimental history and will be encouraged to provide copies. The more soldiers whose voices are heard, the richer the history will be.
The target date for publication of the completed regimental history is July 2014 – the one hundred fiftieth anniversary of the Battle of the Crater.