Monday, September 7, 2009

5th New York (Duryee's Zouaves) Commemoration

From 5th New York

The men of the Co. A, 5th New York Infantry (Duryee’s Zouaves) marched quietly, the lieutenant’s voice calling the cadence as they approached the regiment’s monument on the crest of the hill above Young’s Branch on the battlefield of Second Bull Run. The day is clear and hot, though perhaps not as humid as the August day one hundred forty-seven years ago when the regiment met its destiny atop this same hill.

Together with the 10th New York, another Zouave outfit, the 5th New York made up Warren’s Brigade of Porter’s Fifth Corps, Army of the Potomac. While Porter’s corps wasted its valor assaulting Stonewall Jackson’s position along the unfinished railroad in the area known as the Deep Cut, the 5th NY rested on the flank in reserve. Without warning, men of the 10th NY dashed past, fleeing the skirmish line in terror. The sledgehammer blow of Longstreet’s Corps was about to fall on the unsuspecting veterans of the 5th NY. Undaunted, they tried to form line. In their short and futile attempt to stem the tide of Longstreet’s assault, the 5th NY suffered 300 casualties of 500 men engaged.

Given the magnitude of their sacrifice at Second Bull Run, the veterans of the 5th NY saw fit to place their only monument atop that same ridge where they left so many of their comrades behind. In continued remembrance of their sacrifice, current members of the 5th NY meet on the battlefield each year on the anniversary of the fighting. After a guest speaker set the scene, the unit came to attention and the color bearers rested the national and regimental flags in the corners of the wrought iron fence enclosing the monument. Each member present posted forward, saluted the monument, and called the roll of men of their assigned company who gave “the last full measure of devotion” at this very spot one hundred forty-seven years ago.

I am confident the veterans of the 5th NY would have approved of this humble ceremony commemorating their service in the central conflict of this country’s existence. Once they had passed on, their monument fell into disrepair, its location on the battlefield largely forgotten. In the 1980’s, reenactors of the 5th NY took it upon themselves to refurbish the monument and established the annual ceremony I attended this past week. Without the efforts of organizations such as Co. A, 5th NY, we might conveniently forget those they seek to commemorate. The way they have chosen to do so is, I think, uniquely fitting.


dehbird76 said...

Thanks for the post. This has always been one of the most poignant spots for me, as one can really feel the loss and sacrifice on this ground. Knowing about the ceremony certainly helps those numbers become living men again.

I do have one question: Do you know if the tree line opposite the monument is the historical woodline border? There certainly is not much space between that and the 5th NY!

Steven Mynes said...

During the remarks at the ceremony, the speaker mentioned the woodline was about 40 yards farther from the monument than it is today, and the slope toward Young's Branch was less wooded as well.

My friend, who accompanied me on my recent tour, has been a member of the 5th for 18 years. As I watched the group carefully roll their turbans and wrap their sashes about their waists, I developed a real appreciation for the effort they put forward in their impression. For the first time, I considered this was something I ought to be doing as well, though I am drawn more to the life and story of the generic Federal soldier. Thanks for your comment.