Thursday, April 22, 2010

Book review – “The Iron Hearted Regiment”

I got this book some time ago to review (from McFarland). I read it not long ago, and put it aside, thinking it might make a great post on a new blog I was working on about Civil War regimentals. I’ve still not decided what I’m going to do with this other idea, so I thought I would go ahead and post the review of the book. The book is Mark Silo’s The 115th New York in the Civil War: A Regimental History (McFarland 2007).

So, what does a history of the 115th New York Infantry have to do with a blog about North Carolina and the War? Well, the 115th New York was involved in the assault on Fort Fisher in January 1865, and would later spend seven weeks garrisoned in Raleigh after the close of the war. However, let’s back up a little and review the 115th New York’s service record.

The regiment was recruited from Hamilton, Fulton, Montgomery, and Saratoga Counties, New York. The men of the 115th were mustered into service in August 1862. From reading Silo’s book, one might tend to agree that they were a hard luck regiment. The regiment was positioned on Bolivar Heights near Harper’s Ferry. After less than a month in service, the regiment was surrendered with the rest of the garrison. After being paroled, the 115th traveled to Annapolis and then to Chicago, where the men were quartered at the fairgrounds. On November 20, they were finally paroled and ordered to Washington. As the regiment was leaving, their quarters caught fire and burned. The regiment went first to Washington, D.C., and then Yorktown, and then to Hilton Head. After disembarking at Hilton Head, the regiment found itself “under arrest” for the destruction of the barracks in Chicago. The 115th was later absolved of the crime. They spent much of the spring of 1863 involved in small raids into the interior of South Carolina and Georgia. In the summer of 1863, several junior officers attempted to have their colonel cashiered, but the charges were found to amount to nothing.

In early 1864, the members of the 115th New York found themselves involved in the Florida campaign. They lost 296 men in the battle of Olustee (about 51%). The regiment was in Florida until mid-April, then in embarked for Yorktown, joining the Army of the James at Bermuda Hundred. The regiment was involved in numerous battles revolving around the Overland Campaign, like Port Walthall Junction, and Drewrys Bluff, the Crater, and Second Deep Bottom. In December 1864, during the engagement at Chaffin’ s Farm, the regiment was hit by friendly fire coming from the 9th Maine. In early December, the 115th New York returned to the landing at Bermuda Hundred, and set sail for Wilmington, North Carolina. The men of the 115th participated in the December 25 assault on Fort Fisher, but were recalled after landing on the beach. The regiment returned to Virginia, but was back in North Carolina, assaulting Fort Fisher on January 15, where it lost 17 men. The next day, the 115th New York was close to the explosion of the powder magazine at Fort Fisher, losing 11 dead and 41 wounded. From April 14 to June 19, the 115th New York was stationed in Raleigh. By mid June the 115th was back in New York, and on June 26, paraded through the streets of New York City. The men were mustered out of service on July 3, 1865.

Mark Silo has done a splendid good reconstructing the history of the 115th New York. He has interwoven numerous letters and diary entries with official documents on the regiment, and has also included numerous photographs of the men themselves, and in some instances, their equipment. I would say that Silo’s history is one of the better regimentals that I have read recently and folks interested in the assault on Fort Fisher and the last days of the war will find this book of interest.

If you are interested in the book, contact McFarland at or at 800.253.2187.

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