Richard Mather Bayles.

History of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time online

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bitterly against the deception which had been practiced upon
them. In vain did several officers try to appease their wrath
with the oft repeated story that their grievances would shortly
be adjusted. They determined to take matters into their own
hands, and leave the camp.

Accordingly, about noon the Burnside Rifles armed them-
selves with clubs, axes and stones, and headed by two drum-
mers, marched defiantly toward the main entrance of the camp.
Here, however, they were met by Colonel Leave, who had been
informed of the threatened movement and had provided a
strong guard of picked men for the emergency. Upon being
ordered by the colonel to ret urn to their quarters, the men set up a
yell of defiance, one of them hurling a large stone which struck
the colonel a violent blow on the side. As soon as he recovered
from the shock he sprang into the midst of the mob and ar-
rested the man who threw the stone; the others, being cowed by
his resolute action, offered meanwhile no resistance.

The mutineers now turned in another direction. Marching
directly to the south side of the barracks they determined to
cut their way out. and about twenty-eight men actually suc-
ceeded in doing so before their progress could be stopped. The
" Enfants Perdus" were marched to the scene of action and
ordered to fire upon them, which they did, resulting in the
death of one man and the supposed mortally wounding of an-
other. The twenty-eight who had escaped were subsequently
captured by a revenue cutter while attempting to cross over to
Jersey in a boat which they had taken for the purpose. They
were subsequently conveyed to Governor's island, where they
were put in irons.

In the course of the day a demonstration was made against
the sutler's department, but was put down without much
trouble. About ten o'clock in the evening flames were seen is-
suing from the stables adjoining the hospital department. The
energy of the officers and men succeeded in saving some valu-
able horses that were in these buildings, and also, by great ex-



312 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

ertions, the hospital itself, which was at one time seriously en-
dangered. The patrol guard was strengthened, and this
effectually prevented any making their escape amid the confu-
sion consequent upon the fire.

Squads of soldiers were detailed that afternoon to go to the
different ferries and look out for any deserters who might at-
tempt to leave the island by the ferry-boats. One of the guard
at Stapleton landing, named Spellissy, while attending to this
duty, attempted to arrest two young men whom he took to be
deserters, but who claimed to have been honorably discharged
from the service. In the scuffle which ensued one Donahue, a
by-stander, came to the assistance of the young men, and after
a hand to hand encounter with Spellissy broke from him and
ran away, when the latter fired upon him, the ball making a
wound in the thigh of Donahue, and also striking the knee of
a little child in its passage. Spellissy was arrested, and barely
escaping being lynched at the hands of the incensed populace,
was confined in Richmond jail.

It would appear to be the fact that some grounds of complaint
existed with the men, owing to their treatment and their fare. One
who had inquired into the subject somewhat wrote: "All through
the winter complaints have come to us from soldiers quar-
tered at New Dorp and Tompkinsville that their bounties have
been withheld ; and for a long time, at the latter camp ground,
miserable fare has been loudly talked of, and on more than one
occasion the men have demolished the cook-house where, they
insisted, decayed food had been prepared for them. I have con-
versed with a large number of these men, and discovered that
they were not of the commoner sort, being very intelligent, and
many of them sons of thrifty farmers in the northern and west-
ern sections of this state ; consequently they know what decent
treatment is, and felt that they had a right to expect it at the
hands of the government or its officers. Hundreds of them
have 'skedaddled 1 in disgust, and doubtless have borne to
the ears of the community to which they belong, dismal tidings
of the state of affairs in Uncle Samuel's camp, and pictured in
their mental vision scenes to which they are likely to remain
strangers, at least as far as they are able. 1 '

A small number of skeleton organizations, or parts of organi-
zations, were brought together here and consolidated in June,
1863. Among these remnants were the ; ' Tompkins," " H.



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 313

Seymour" and "Davis" cavalry, the "Blair Rifles," " Sey
mour Light Infantry," "Defenders," " Burnside Rifles, "Pratt
Guard," and the " Westchester Light Infantry."

General McClellan was present at a grand review which took
place at this camp September 8, 1863. There were about three
thousand five hundred men in the various commands then or-
ganizing here, and the occasion called out about eight thousand
spectators. The affair was said to be one of the most brilliant
military demonstrations ever witnessed on the island. General
McClellan having taken a position, the troops marched in re-
view before him, the following regiments taking part and mov-
ing in the order named : Eleventh IS. Y., Thirty-first, Duryea's
Zouaves, Thirty-fourth, Ninth, Twelfth cavalry, Coming's
Eighteenth light cavalry, Twenty-first cavalry (dismounted),
Seventeenth, Thirteenth and some other regiments. After the
column had passed the general addressed the soldiers, many of
whom had been in the service with him, in the following lan-
guage :

" My COMRADES I am glad and sad and proud to meet you
again. (Loud cheers). I am glad because we are all glad to
meet old comrades and brothers in arms. (Renewed cheering).
lam sad because I am reminded in seeing you, of your brethren
slain on our fields of battle. I remember, too, our last fight,
opposite Warrentown. I am proud because I call to mind all
our battles from Yorktown to Antietam. I am proud because
you who are here are some of the old Army of the Potomac, on
which I have looked with pride, and ever shall. (Tremendous
cheering). When you return to your comrades say to them
that their old commander has continued to watch their every
battle with as much interest, feeling and pride as when with
you, and that he will ever do so. (Cheers). I am also glad to
know that so many of you are returning to the service. I thank
you, comrades, for the kind welcome you have given me. I will
not say good-bye again. We have said that once before, and I
trust never to repeat it."

Early in November, 1863, four or five hundred men remaining,
discontent arose and insubordination was manifest. This culmi-
nated on the night of the 4th in the burning of the barracks.
At about one o'clock of the following morning fire was dis-
covered on the east side of the camp. The alarm was given by
the firing of howitzers, and several apparatus companies came



314 HISTOTCY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

to the scene, Excelsior Backet Company No. 1, Protection
Hose, of Stapleton, and Neptune Hose, of Tompkinsville, being
the first to arrive. The flames were extinguished, but not until
all the eastern side and about one hundred feet of the northern
side of the camp were destroyed. Unusual vigilance was exer-
cised on the following night, but flames again appeared at about
the same hour of the night, and before any available assistance
could reach the spot the remaining part of the structure
was burned to the ground. A few days later a plot was ex-
posed by one of the men implicated in it, which had been
planned for the purpose of burning the hospital which was
lilled with sick men. The man who exposed the plot had not
the hardened heart to allow him to carry out the scheme of
crime that he had engaged in, and he named the ringleaders,
who were arrested and put in irons. On the following day
General Canby ordered all the men except about forty cavalry
to be removed to Governors island. The camp was now de-
serted except by the few men who remained to guard its
ruins.

When the encampments of soldiers were first made on the
island considerable alarm was felt for the safety of the inhabi-
tants and the security of their property against the molestation
of the troops. A police force was talked of and steps toward a
regular organization, to be employed and paid by the public funds,
were taken. There were differences of opinion, some believing
that such a force was necessary and others arguing that it
would be a needless expense, and that the camp regulations
would be sufficient to protect the people against any serious
damage or molestation. A line of sentries was stationed by the
commandant of Camp Scott as far as Vanderbilt landing, about
two miles from the camp.

Thus, as we have seen, now and heretofore in this article, the
most vigilant effort was in many cases made to protect the
people from the annoyances of the encamped army. But this
could be but imperfectly done. The local and government
authorities sometimes came into conflict, when soldiers who
had been arrested and imprisoned for offenses against the civil
law, were demanded by the officers of the military organizations
to which they belonged to move with the organization to the
seat of war. In this way many a guilty criminal escaped pun-
ishment. This emboldened others to be more reckless in their



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 315

offensive conduct, especially when it was known that their
regiments were to move forward before a trial in the civil
courts would be had.

One of the frequent manifestations of lawlessness was seen in
the work of the incendiary torch. The frequency of fires in
1862 is thus referred to in a paragraph in a local paper at the
time:

"FiRE NUMBER 26. Notwithstanding the general desire to
efface party lines there is still a party on the North Shore
which keeps up its organization and performs its labors with
much diligence. We allude to the barnburners. These nota-
ble individuals enjoyed themselves for the twenty-sixth time on
Sunday morning, at half-past three o'clock (the usual hour for
such fun), by setting h're to the barn of Mr. Henry Cornell on
the Mill Eoad, Castleton. It was burned to the ground loss
about $300. The inhabitants all get awake in time to see the
fire, but the incendiaries are generally supposed to be in-
visible.

" Many of the people are said to be so used to the- alarm of
fire that when they discover it is not their barn they go to bed
again."

Incendiary fires, burglaries, thefts, assaults, and drunken
fights were of daily occurrence during much of the time. The
expenses of the county for the services of constables and patrol-
men for the year 1862 was eight thousand six hundred and
forty-five dollars and twenty-one cents. About two thousand
six hundred arrests for criminal offenses were made during the
year. The bills of the justices of the peace for acting on these
cases amounted to five thousand two hundred and twenty-three
dollars and seventy-one cents ; making an aggregate of thirteen
thousand eight hundred and sixty-eight dollars and ninety-two
cents paid for preserving the public peace, which after all was
continually in a precarious condition.

The summer of 1865 was notable for the frequency of assaults,
robberies and other examples of ruffianism. Many of the per-
petrators of outrages of this character upon the peaceable
citizens, which occurred almost daily, were returned soldiers,
who had been schooled amid scenes of war, and being without
any principle of honor, were ready to practice theft and violence
upon unprotected citizens in a land of peace. The island was
overcome by a tide of ruffianism and crime that rendered life



316 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

and property here decidedly unsafe. It was a publicly admitted
fact that crime was enormously on the increase. Highway rob-
beries, house breakings, violent assaults and batteries, riots and
other heinous offenses, almost without number, were committed.
Any attempt to give a detailed list of specific instances would
be a sickening task. Many arrests were made and the guilty
parties were imprisoned in the county jail. But even here their
bold defiance of law manifested itself in threats of using the
political influence which some of them claimed to have to de-
feat at the ballot box the public officials who should dare to
bring them to punishment. Despite such threats, however, the
grand jury at the next court of sessions, in September, found
indictments against thirty-eight prisoners, nineteen of which
were for assault and battery, four for burglary, two for assault
with intent to kill, and the remainder for various crimes.

But the period of war is closed. Let us be done with the
lawlessness, the riots, the contentions, the destruction of prop-
erty, the ill feelings, the excitements, the sorrowings and all
the train of skeleton forms that attend on a time of war. And
how mean a recompense is the blare of martial music, the
graceful evolutions of military parade, the glitter of dazzling
uniforms and equipments or the gallant carriage of a command-
ing hero on the field ! Let us pray kind Heaven that this fail-
island may not again be desecrated by the presence of an en-
camped soldiery preparing themselves for scenes of carnage and
destruction.

From the scenes in which men were engaged the scenes in
which their aim was to shed the blood of their fellow men, it is
refreshing to turn a moment to the scenes in which honorable
women were meanwhile engaged the work of staying the crim-
son tide, healing the wounds that men had made and relieving
the sufferings that were the inevitable fruits of war. While
the men were at work fanning the flames of passion to make
them burn higher for the destruction of their fellows, the
ladies were unobtrusively working away, preparing articles of use
and comfort for the soldiers at the front or the sick and wound-
ed in hospitals. Organizations were effected in the different
villages, preparing articles of clothing, such as stockings, shirts,
drawers, handkerchiefs, mittens, besides lint, bandages, blank-
ets, preserves, and other little delicacies and luxuries. There
were the "Mariner's Harbor Soldiers' Relief Society," com-



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 317

posed largely of active young ladies, the "Ladies' Relief
Society of New Springville," the ''North Shore Soldiers' Aid
Society at Factoryville," and others whose names or work are
not before us now, but which were equally noble, self-sacrificing
and worthy of grateful remembrance.

We will, in closing this chapter of war, append the following
list of Staten Islanders who served during the War of the
Rebellion, in Company I, One Hundred and Fifty-sixth New
York State Volunteers :

Orville D. Jewett, Castleton, first lieutenant; captain; re-
signed 1863.

Clarence T. Barrett, Castleton, second lieutenant ; first lieu-
tenant ; adjutant ; served as aid-de-camp on staff of Major-
General W. H. Emory, commanding Nineteenth army corps ;
then on staff of Major-General E. S. Canby, commanding de-
partment of gulf ; captain and aid-de-camp, United States
army; brevet ted major for gallant and meritorious services at
the capture of Mobile.

Charles W. Kennedy, Castleton, first sergeant : second lieu-
tenant ; first lieutenant ; captain ; served for two years on staff
of Third brigade, Second division, Nineteenth army corps, as
brigade commissary, and acting assistant adjutant-general.

Edward Steers, Castleton, sergeant ; first lieutenant ; served
until the end of war.

William Cortelyou, Southfield, sergeant; second lieutenant;
wounded at Cedar Creek ; served until the end of war.

Bennett H. Buel, Castleton, sergeant ; served until the end
of war.

George G. Cadmus, Northfield, sergeant ; discharged for
disability.

Charles T. Pine, Castleton, corporal ; discharged to accept
commission on corps d'Afrique.

George Mersereau, Castleton, corporal ; sergeant ; served un-
til the end of war.

Edward Haggerty, Northfield, corporal ; killed before Port-
Hudson.

Nathan M. Barrett, Castleton, corporal color-guard ; served
until the end of war.

William C. Simonson, Southfield, corporal ; sergeant ; served
until the end of war.



318 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

Oscar Guyon, Southfield, corporal ; sergeant ; served until
the end of war.

Albert P. Heal, Castleton, corporal ; served until the end of
war.

John Vanderbilt, Castleton, corporal ; discharged to accept
appointment as master of arms United States navy.

Thomas Steers, Castleton, corporal ; discharged to accept
commission as assistant engineer United States navy.

John G. Bott, Castleton, private ; served until the end of war.

William Bamber, Castleton, private ; corporal ; served until
the end of war,

Robert Bell, Southfield, private ; died of disease in service.

Henry V. Buel, Castleton, private ; died of disease in service.

Edmund Blake, Castleton, private ; wounded at Winchester ;
served until the end of war ; died from effects of wound.

James Brogan, Castleton, private ; served until end of war.

Nathan F. Barrett, Castleton, private ; sergeant-major ; sec-
ond lieutenant ; served until end of war.

Abiel H. Burbank, Southfield, private ; died of disease in
service.

Ebenezer Chichester, Castleton, private ; served till close of
war.

Daniel Collins, Castleton, private ; served till close of war.

Dewitt C. Connor, Southfield, private ; killed in action at
Fort Bisland.

Edward Clary, Castleton, private ; wounded at Cedar Creek ;
served until end of war.

Patrick Colbert, Castleton, private ; served until end of war.

Thomas F. Donnelly, Castleton, private ; sergeant ; served
until end of war.

Richard Dawlin, Castleton, private; wounded at Fisher's
Hill ; discharged.

Albert G. Denton, Castleton, private ; discharged for disabil-
ity.

Daniel Elms, Northfield, private ; served until end of war.

Jacob N. Guyon, Southfield, private ; corporal ; discharged
for disability.

Nelson Gilby, Southfield, private; served until end of war.

Joseph Jacobs, Castleton, private ; served until end of war.

Bernard Jacobs, Castleton, private; drum-major; served un-
til end of war;



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 319

Albert Jones, Castleton, private ; died of disease in service.

James E. Hood, Castleton, private; discharged for disability.

Ira McVeigh, Castleton, private ; wounded at Cedar Creek ;
discharged.

Reuben S. Miller, Castleton, private ; served until end of war.

Philip J. Miller, Southliekl, private ; corporal ; served until
end of war.

Mark Mallett, Castleton, private ; taken prisoner at Cedar
Creek ; discharged.

John Prosi, Castleton, private ; served until end of war.

Edward N. Pomeroy, Castleton, private ; discharged to re-
ceive commission in corps d'Afrique.

Atagustus W. Sexton, Jr., Castleton, private; discharged to
receive commission.

William B. Smith, Castleton. private ; served until end of
war.

Robert Stewart, Castleton, private ; served until end of war.

George Wackerhagen, Castleton, private ; discharged to re-
ceive appointment as hospital steward United States army.

Thomas Wright, Castleton, private ; wounded at Montesino
Bayou ; served until end of war.

James Watson, Castleton, private ; taken prisoner at Cedar
Creek ; died from exposure.

The death of President Garfield occasioned one of the most
remarkable and general popular demonstrations of sorrow that
has ever been witnessed here. The newspapers of the island
were dressed in mourning. Memorial services were held by
nearly every church and organization on Monday, October 26,
1881. In the north side villages a parade was organized. This
was composed of Washington Engine Company No. 1, Port
Richmond Engine Company No. 3. Lincoln Club of New
Brighton; New Brighton Engine Company No. 4; Zephyr Hose
Company No. 4; Aquehonga Hook and Ladder Company No. 1;
Medora Hook and Ladder Company No. 3; Metamora Council
No. 650, American Legion of Honor; Continental Council No. 27,
O. U. A. M. The line of march was taken along the shore road
from the Pavilion hotel at New Brighton to Port Richmond,
where a speaker's stand had been erected in the open h'eld on
Heberton avenue opposite the school house. Here appropriate
services were conducted, consisting of singing and addresses,
the latter bv Rev. Jesse S. Gilbert and Hou. Erastus Brooks.



320 HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY.

Appropriate services were also held at the church of the
Ascension, West New Brighton, at 11 o'clock, Rev. Mr. Cornell
officiating in the absence of the rector. Services on the pre-
vious Sunday at Trinity M. E. church had reference .to the sub-
ject, and similar services were held at the Moravian church at
New Dorp. At the Reformed church memorial exercises were
conducted on Monday at 2 o'clock by Rev. Dr. Brownlee, as-
sisted by Rev. Dr. John Robinson and Rev. Mr. Vansant. The
Rev. C. A. Frincke at the German Lutheran church, St. John's,
conducted memorial services in German at the same hour. High
mass was celebrated at St. Mary's, Clifton, by the Rev. John
Lewis and the Litany of the Saints, in which is included prayers
for all people, governors, rulers and officials, was recited in re-
spect to the occasion, on the same day.

An elaborate service was conducted at St. John's, Clifton,
which included the prescribed service, music, and addresses by
Rev. Dr. Eccleston, the pastor, and Mr. W. W. MacFarland;
while at Christ church, New Brighton, the liturgical and musi-
cal services were supplemented by an address by Rev. George
D. Johnson, the rector. At the Park Baptist church the pastor,
being absent at the time, spoke with reference to the subject on
the following Sabbath. At the Seamen's Retreat chapel ser-
vices were held Monday afternoon and addresses were made by
Rev. Drs. Kipp and Rockwell. At the Kingsley M. E. and St.
Paul's Memorial churches, Edgewater, services were held on
Monday, while on Sunday morning Rev. Dr. Rockwell, of the
Presbyterian church, held a commemorative service. Masses
were celebrated on Monday in St. Peter's, New Brighton, and
St. Rose of Lima, West New Brighton; and in the latter
church, after mass, prayer for the authorities, composed by
Archbishop Carrol], of Baltimore, was recited. There were
also services in St. Paul's M. E. and the South Baptist churches
at Tottenville; in St. Joseph's at Rossville, and St. Mark's at
Pleasant Plains. Rev. Mr. Cole, of Woodrow, delivered an
essay on the life and service of President Garh'eld on the pre-
ceding Sunday, and Rev. Mr. Morris, of Bethel M. E. church,
gave a memorial sermon on the following Sabbath.

Nearly all these churches were draped, some on the inside,
some on the outside and some on both. Heavy folds and cov-
erings of black cloth were tastefully arranged on pulpits,
chairs, tables, organs, railings, around windows, over doorways



HISTORY OF RICHMOND COUNTY. 321

and arches and upon supporting pillars. Many residences,
hotels and business places were also heavily dressed in mourn-
ing, and in some cases bells were tolled at intervals through the
day. Services at Stapleton Park were held under the auspices
of Robert G. Shaw Post, G. A. R., and a large audience as-
sembled, over which Mr. Justus O. Woods presided. Lenhart
Post, of Tottenville, and the Staten Island Quartette Club,
represented by thirty-five members, assisted in the exercises,
and Ex-Congressman James W. Covert delivered an appropri-
ate and touching address.

Probably the most destructive storm ever known on the island
was that of September, 1882. Rain commenced on Wednesday
evening the 20th, and continued until Saturday. Heavy rains-
fell during this time, and created freshets in many places, de-
stroying property and rendering impossible the ordinary avenues
of travel. The storm was accompanied by unusually high tides,
which added to the aggregate damage along the shores. Wil-
low brook was swelled to an alarming fullness. The culvert in
the railroad embankment between Prince's bay and Pleasant
Plains was not sufficient to give vent to the great body of water
that accumulated above it, and on Saturday evening a breach
was made and about thirty feet of the embankment was carried
down the stream. The water by this time had risen so high as
to cover many gardens and roads, and to fill many cellars, even
covering the first floors in some houses. Out-houses and a
nameless multitude of small articles were borne away on the
seething flood. Blacksmith shops, barns and dwelling-houses
were undermined or otherwise damaged, as were also their con-



Online LibraryRichard Mather BaylesHistory of Richmond County (Staten Island), New York from its discovery to the present time → online text (page 31 of 72)