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A SHORT REGIMENTAL HISTORY OF THE 14TH BROOKLYN


A group photo of officers of the 14th Brooklyn at Falmouth VA in 1862
Colonel Edward B. Fowler is seated front row crnter.
Most of the officers in this photo can be identified.

The Fourteenth Brooklyn was officially formed July 5, 1847 as Fourteenth Regiment, N.Y.S.M. (New York State Militia) when the New York State Legislature consolidated the individual militia companies into regiments. At this time, the Fourteenth was a social club composed of men of venerable lineage. The regiment gathered on weekends and evenings for recreation and to demonstrate their readiness to serve in time of need.

The men used the armory in Brooklyn (corner of Henry & Cranberry Streets) as their headquarters. In 1860, the Fourteenth was impressed by the uniforms of Colonel Ellsworth's Chicago Zouaves. As a result, the Board of Officers decided to adopt their own variation of the French Chasseur uniform. This distinctive uniform was used throughout the regiment's three-year enlistment in the Civil War (May 1861- May 1864). Officially, the regiment was mustered into service by General Irwin McDowell on May 23, 1861.

The Brooklyn Chasseurs, (as they were also known), had a fine courageous fighting record. They served in most of the major campaigns in the eastern theater. These include: First & Second Bull Run, Antietam Creek, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg,Wilderness,and Spottsylvania. At First Bull Run, the Fourteenth fought bravely. They sustained 142 casualties and were given the nickname "Red Legged Devils" by Stonewall Jackson.

Shortly after this battle, New York State attempted to redesignate the regiment as the 84th New York Volunteers. The men vigorously protested and solicited the aid of General McDowell. It was at this time that the regiment received its motto, when General McDowell proclaimed:"You were mustered by me into the service of the United States as part of the militia of the State of New York known as the Fourteenth.You have been Baptized by Fire under that number and as such you shall be recognized by the United States government and by no other number"

At second Bull Run, the men again fought valiantly, sustaining 120 casualties. Two weeks later, the regiment would again fight with distinction by their conspicuous bravery through the cornfield of Antietam Creek. At South Mountain and Antietam, the regiment sustained 55 casualties. Colonel Rufus R. Dawes of the Iron Brigade's Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers would later write in his book "Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers" (published in 1890): "The Fourteenth Brooklyn Regiment, red legged zouaves, came into our line closing the awful gaps. Now is the pinch. Men and officers of New York and Wisconsin are fused into a common mass, in the frantic struggle to shoot fast. Everybody tears cartridges, loads, passes guns, or shoots."

At Fredericksburg and Chancerllorsville, the regiment saw little action having been primarily kept in reserve. However, during the Chancerllorsvile campaign, the Fourteenth saw a short and deadly action at Fitz Hughs's Crossings. Again, the Fourteenth and the Sixth Wisconsin worked together. Both Regiments were demonstrating while Hooker's army was moving to the right flank at Chancellorsville. On the Riverbank, the Fourteenth was covering the Sixth as they attempted to cross Fitz Hugh's Crossing in boats.The Fourteenth's combined casualties for both Fredericksburg and Fitz Hugh's Crossing amounted to 28. During July 1-3, 1863, at the pivotal battle of Gettysburg,the regiment was to play a vital role in delaying the rebel advance on the first day.

The Fourteenth was part of Cutler's Brigade, which was the first infantry brigade to relieve Brigadier General John Buford's cavalry and engage the Confederates. This delaying action (defense in depth),allowed the Army of the Potomac to concentrate at the "fishhook" ( the position from Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill, along Cemetery Ridge, and ending at Little Round Top). Again, the Fourteenth and Sixth Wisconsin were to fight together. As the Confederates under Davis' Brigade (42nd Mississippi, 2nd Mississippi, 55th North Carolina) began to flank the federal position to the north, simultaneously two things happened. First, Colonel Fowler of the Fourteenth Brooklyn (also commanding the 95th New York Volunteers-Fowlers Demi-brigade) ordered a complex maneuver that resulted in the Fourteenth Brooklyn (on the left) and the 95th NYV (on the right) forming a battle line facing the rebel threat to the north of the railroad cut.

Second and simultaneously, Colonel Rufus Dawes of the Sixth Wisconsin received orders from General Doubleday to "move your regiment at once to the right" (that is,to the north towards the railroad cut). Upon seeing the enemy just north of the railroad cut, Colonel Dawes directed his troops to wheel right "by company into line on the company". Davis' Brigade took a blast head-on from all three union regiments, then made a mad dash for the cover of the railroad cut. At this moment, Fowler's Demi-Brigade (Fourteenth and 95th NYV) came up on the left, while the Sixth Wisconsin came up on the right. All three regiments (1000 Federals) were now in line of battle facing Davis' Brigade (1700 Confederates), which were down in the railroad cut.

All three regiments vigorously charged and attacked the rebels in the railroad cut. According to one Fourteenth Brooklyn officer, the rebels "fought with the ferocity of wildcats". A fierce hand to hand fight ensued, with bayonets and clubbed muskets, as the Confederates defended their colors and cannon they had previously captured. The vengeful Federals loomed above them, firing down into the railroad cut at point blank range. The Confederates were trapped. The shoot-out was vicious, with no quarter given. Wounded and dead rebels sank to the railroad bed. The fighting was so brutal, it could not last long. The rebels soon realized that their position was hopeless. They threw down their arms in droves, yielded up their battle flags, and passed through the ranks to the rear as prisoners.

Approximately, 350 Confederates from Davis's Brigade had surrendered in addition, it is estimated that 350 Confederate officers and men were killed or wounded. The rest escaped. The Fourteenth also had the honor of carrying the body of Major General John Reynolds back to Seminary Ridge after he was shot by a Confederate sharpshooter. This scene is hinted at in Ted Turner's movie Gettysburg, where you can see some of the re-enactors of the Fourteenth Brooklyn. On the second and third day of battle (July 2-3, 1863), the men fought on Culp's Hill. The Fourteenth is one of the few regiments to fight all three days at Gettysburg. Furthermore, it is the only regiment to have three monuments erected and dedicated in their honor at the National Battle field Park. The Fourteenth sustained 217 casualties (67%) over these three bloody days.

The men continued to fight over the next year, culminating with the battles of the Wilderness and Spottsylvania (126 casualties.) After completing their three year enlistment, the Brooklyn Chasseurs was mustered out of service. They arrived home, in Brooklyn, to the cheers of crowds at Fulton Ferry on May 25th 1864. Overall, throughout its entire three years of service, the Fourteenth Regiment N.Y.S.M. sustained 717 casualties (41%). Today the regiment lives on and is commemorated by civil war re-enactors like our organization. We are the Fourteenth Brooklyn Regiment, N.Y.S.M., Co.E, Living History Association.

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