|137th Regiment New York State Volunteers|
The 137th Regiment, New York State Volunteers, was an infantry regiment recruited in the summer of 1862, from three rural counties in New York State, lying between the Pennsylvania border and the Finger Lakes. Binghamton, the largest village, in Broome County, had a population of some 8,000 – Owego (Tioga County) 6,000, Ithaca (Tompkins County) about the same. Many of the young men of this district had already been enlisted in earlier regiments. But inspired by patriotism, or fear of an impending draft, or by a bounty that equaled a year’s wages, over one thousand more men signed up for a three-year tour in this new regiment. Farmers, construction workers, canal boatmen, tavern owners, they would be an older group – average age, 27, often fathers enlisted with their sons. They would be trained and led by a professional officer – a rarity among state-recruited volunteer regiments, normally recruited and led by a prominent local citizen with political, but little if any military experience. This officer, Capt. David Ireland, a Regular Army officer of the 15th U. S. Infantry, had fought under Sherman at Manassas as Adjutant of the 79th New York Volunteers, been given a Regular commission by McClellan, and had trained new regiments in Kentucky for Sherman’s army. He knew how to fight the Civil War, and knew how to train his officers and men to fight effectively when their time came.
In late September 1862, Col. David Ireland took his new regiment from its training camp in Binghamton by train to Washington, and immediately was ordered to join McClellan’s Army of the Potomac near Frederick, MD, in the aftermath of the great Battle of Antietam. In the regiment’s first few months, bad weather, poor sanitary conditions at the Union encampment at Harper’s Ferry, and a realization that this was indeed war, not patriotic parades, that they had embarked upon, took their toll on the ranks of the 137th. Illness, death, resignations, discharges, and even a few desertions, reduced the effective strength of the regiment almost in half. The remaining band of brave and hardy men endured the rigors of marching thousands of miles in bitter cold, stifling heat, over roads that were in turn muddy to the knees, then choking with dust in Virginia, over rocky ridges in Tennessee and north Georgia, through swamps in Georgia and South Carolina. They fought uncounted skirmishes, and major battles at Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, and Chattanooga in 1863, and then a whole series of battles across north Georgia in 1864, before Col. Ireland led his Third Brigade into Atlanta in September. Tragically, a few days later, the brave and intrepid David Ireland, undefeated by Rebels, lost his life to the dysentery he had fought throughout the war. The 137th would go on with Sherman on the March to the Sea, once again being first into Savannah just before Christmas, 1864. After serving as Provost for Savannah, the 137th marched across the swamps and uplands of the Carolinas to Raleigh, where their Confederate enemy finally surrendered. They went on to the Grand Review in Washington at the end of May, finally returning home in June of 1865. Less than one quarter of the men who had left Binghamton in September of 1862 would return in June of 1865.
- from the introduction to Col. David Ireland and the 137th NY – In Their Own Words