- The Washington Times - Friday, May 19, 2006

The 37th New York was one of the many two-year regiments recruited in the summer of 1861 in response to President Lincoln’s call for troops.

Most of the regiment was recruited from New York City, with one company from Pulaski County and two from Cattaraugus County. They gathered in New York City, where they mustered in on June 6 and 7, 1861.

“The Union Army,” an eight-volume set of books published in 1908 that provides short histories of Union regiments and batteries, states that the 37th left New York City on June 23 for Washington. When the regiment arrived in the District, it was placed in the reserve forces around the city.

The 37th did not participate in the Battle of First Manassas, although it was in the defenses of Washington at the time and was camped near Baileys Crossroads in present suburban Virginia.

In March 1862, the regiment moved to Fort Monroe as a part of the Army of the Potomac and on to the Peninsula of Virginia. There the 37th fought in the engagements at the siege of Yorktown (April 5 to May 5), the battles of Williamsburg (May 5), Fair Oaks (May 31), Seven Days before Richmond (June 25-July 1) and Malvern Hill (July 1).

After these actions, the 37th New York returned to Alexandria when the Army of the Potomac was withdrawn from the peninsula in late August 1862. The regiment, as part of Col. Orlando Poe’s brigade, advanced to Manassas, where it was lightly engaged on Aug. 29 in the Second Manassas campaign.

During the withdrawal on Sept. 1, 1862, the 37th was on the field at the Battle of Chantilly in Fairfax County and suffered one soldier wounded and one soldier missing. In December, the regiment fought at the Battle of Fredericksburg, losing 35 members killed, wounded or missing. The regiment’s final action was in May 1863 at the Battle of Chancellorsville, where it suffered 222 causalities, according to “The Union Army.”

One of the more than 1,000 men who served in the 37th New York during most of the regiment’s history was Pvt. Hiram Hull. Hull was mustered into Company I on Oct 9, 1861, at Elmira, N.Y. He signed up for two years and gave his age as 25.

Hull joined Company I at Fort Washington in the defenses of Washington on Oct. 20, 1861, according to his service records, available from the National Archives. As is common with soldiers’ early service records, Hull’s status is “not stated” from October 1861 to the bimonthly report for January-February 1862.

His records show he was present for March, April and May 1862. However, on June 2, 1862, he was listed as sick and sent to a hospital. He spent time at the Brigade Hospital at White House Landing in Virginia, then was sent to the Yorktown Hospital and finally to a hospital in Portsmouth, R.I.

One note in his file states that he was wounded by a spent ball or piece of shell at Fair Oaks on May 31. He remained in the hospital through August 1862, so he may have been absent from the regiment at the Battle of Second Manassas, although he had “Bull Run” stamped on his ID disc.

Hull is listed as “present” in September-October 1862 and probably was with the regiment at the Battle of Chantilly because he had “Chantilly” stamped on his ID disc.

He remained with the 37th until April 10, 1863. There is an indication in his records for this period that he was doing “light duty” and not with the regiment. His records do not contain a bimonthly return for May-June 1863, so it is not clear if he was with the regiment in the fighting at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

Because he did not have “Chancellorsville” stamped on his ID disc, it is logical to assume he was still in the hospital and not with the regiment.

On June 22, 1863, Hull was mustered out after serving his two years. He had an outstanding clothing allowance of $74.13. He returned to Ellicottville, N.Y., and on Dec. 25, 1863, he married Emaline Johnson. They would have two children, Harry, born in 1869, and Blanche in 1879.

While he was serving in the 37th, Hull bought an ID disc previously referenced in this article. It is a pewter style with a small nub that contains a hole to allow it to be placed on a pin or string. On the reverse is the inscription “War of 1861.”

On other examples that have not been worn as much as Hull’s, two maker’s marks can be seen just below the hole on the nub. On one side is the word “Boston” and on the other is “Merriam.” It is believed that these refer to Joseph H. Merriam, a known maker of another style of ID disc.

Joseph Merriam is listed in Boston directories starting in 1854 and is shown as moving in 1857 to 18 Brattle Square, Boston. On some business cards dated 1863, it is 19 rather than 18, but examples also exist with 18. His cards list him as a “Die Sinker” and say, “Medals struck in - gold - silver - copper, or Tin”

Hull had the following information stamped on the disc: “HIRAM HULL CO I 37th REG. N.Y.S.V. ELLICOTTVILLE. This is typical of the personal information the soldiers had stamped on their ID discs. Ellicottville was his hometown and is located in Cattaraugus County.

On the reverse of this style of disc, the soldiers listed battles in which they had participated. Hull listed Yorktown, Williamsburg, Seven Days, Malvern Hill, Second Bull Run, Chantilly and Fredericksburg.

It appears the sutler also stamped Chancellorsville, but then overstamped it in an attempt to cancel it out. As previously noted, Hull probably was not with the regiment at the Battle of Chancellorsville.

On May 11, 1864, Hull rejoined the war, mustering into Company D of the 179th New York Infantry for three years. His muster-in record notes that he was born in Ellicottville. He may have rejoined to get the $300 bounty, $60 of which he received on entering the service.

Hull’s records from the 179th show him “present” for May-June 1864 and that he was promoted to corporal sometime between May 11 and June 30. Cpl. Hull is present until March-April 1865 and was with the regiment for all its engagements. These began with the unit’s assignment to the 9th Corps of the Army of the Potomac for the Cold Harbor campaign.

From there the regiment was a participant in the Petersburg fighting, especially at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, where it lost 56 men killed, wounded and missing. After this action, the 179th was in the Sept. 30 to Oct. 2, 1864, fighting at Poplar Spring Church, Hatcher’s Run (Oct. 27), Fort Stedman (March 25) and the final assault on Petersburg (April 2).

Hull’s bimonthly return for January-February 1865 shows that he owed the government $17.72 for “transportation.” There is no information on where or when he went. Regardless, on April 1, 1865, Hull was promoted again, to sergeant.

On June 8, 1865, Sgt. Hull was mustered out near Alexandria. The government still owed him $240, which included the rest of his enlistment bounty. Also, for some reason, he hadn’t been paid since Dec 31,1864.

In 1883,Hull filed for an invalid pension, based on his service in April 1862. The application said his disability was “caused by exposure occurred at Battle of Fair Oaks and on March toward Richmond had been standing guard three nights in succession and when was relieved on the third morning at 9 AM went to Hospital.”

He filed again in 1890, and it appears that he received a pension of $8 per month. Over the next few years, he filed several more documents relating to his pension. In a deposition dated March 17, 1901, Hull states: “At the time the mine was blown up [at the Battle of the Crater on July 30, 1864] our Color Sergeant was killed & I rescued the colors & the colonel — [William M.] Gregg — sent for me & I was told he wanted me to carry them & I was made Color Sergeant.”

Sometime, probably in the early 1900s based on his appearance and the background, Hull sat for a photograph. A copy of the photograph was provided to the U.S. Army Military History Institute at some point.

Hull served his country in two regiments and several major engagements, as seen on his ID disc and his service records. He survived to return home to live out the rest of his life in peace. He died on March 3, 1908.

Joseph Stahl is a longtime collector of Civil War memorabilia. He lives in Fairfax.

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