Cherry Valley, Otsego, NY

Cherry Valley in the War of the Rebellion, Part I

By Holice and Debbie

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Patriotic Cherry Valley responded nobly to President Lincoln's first call for 75,000 men. In April, 1861, in the first outburst of northern patriotism, a company was organized in this town, having its quarters in the school-house near the cemetery, on the sire of the old revolutionary fort. The company was offered at Albany under the first call, as stated above, but the call having been filled it was not received. Its captain was George S. Tuckerman, and its lieutenants were Egbert Olcott and Cleveland J. Campbell. Nearly all of is members joined other organizations. Some of them, together with others from the village, making ten in all, enlisted as privates at Albany in the 44th New York Infantry, otherwise known as "Ellsworth Avengers." Cleveland J. Campbell rose from one grade to another in line and staff, and in different corps, becoming a colonel and brigadier-general by brevet He died before the close of the war.

Egbert Olcott joined the 121st Regiment, of which he long has command after the promotion of General Upton, and becoming a colonel. William Crafts received a captain's commission on the day he died.

For years proceeding the breaking out o the Rebellion there had been a fine military company, of which Amos L. Swan was captain and in which the people of the village took great interest. It was attached to the old 39th militia, of which Cherry Valley was the headquarters. In September, 1861, on the call for three years' men, General Danforth of the local militia brigade was present at a parade of this company. On his asking how many from it would go, the order was given for such as were willing to advance from the ranks, when nearly the whole company stepped forward. There was then no bounty, and the men did not even know the pay. The general at once decided that the enlistment of the 39th should be proceeded with at Cherry Valley. Bates hop-house was used for barracks and the old M. P. Church as mess-room. More then six hundred men were recruited by Jan. 1, 1862, when they were suddenly ordered to Albany and summarily consolidated with the 76th Regiment. Two of the companies, however, were put in the artillery Under Colonel Laidley.

The 39th thus lost its identity, and the interests of the people have followed the 76th through its long and honorable career to the surrender of Lee at Apppomattox. For this regiment the flag was made.

The officers from Cherry Valley were as follows: Captain A. L. Swan, who was brevetted lieutenant-colonel; lieutenant Robert Story, who became captain, and was killed at Gettysburg; Captain John W. Young became a major; James D. Clyde subsequently entered as lieutenant and became a captain. One of those who entered as privates in this regiment, Edwin J. Swan became a captain and Barnard Phenis a lieutenant, who was killed at Weldon Railroad. Samuel Ludlam and James George became sergeants, and Albert Gross several times declined the office, as did Solomon Howe, though called by colonel Swan the "banner soldier" of the regiment. John Stevens was made color-sergeant at Gettysburg, and Irwin Baker at South Mountain, both for bravery. But all these men were splendid soldiers, and only their modesty prevented their becoming officers, as no doubt was the case with some others.

Also, that fall, a squad of near a score for Berdan's sharpshooters, raised by Geo. S. Tuckerman, as captain, and Lieutenant Charles McLean, who was killed. Wm. McLean, his brother, was sergeant, and was also killed. In this corps John E. Hetherington afterwards became a captain, and Oliver J. Hetherington was a sergeant; William Story several times persistently refused a commission on account of a romantic friendship, for the sake of which he preferred the ranks. He and James Kraig, his alter ego, were first in and last out of everything that was lively. James Hetherington, the third brothers of the two above, went in the volunteer navy, as did also William V. S. Bastian, John Nelson, and Thomas Brien. Charles Nichols, George Engle, and William Nelson, lost their lives in the navy. The residence of Lieutenant-Commander George Ransom, U. S. N., was here, though now changed to Richfield. He commanded the cruiser "Grand Gulf," was post captain at the Philadelphia navy-yard, and now ranks as commander in one of the finest vessels of the navy. In August, 1862, upon the second call for three years' men, two companies were raised for the 121st, who headquarters were at Herkimer. Egbert Olcott, as stated above, long held command. He received some remarkable commendations for the efficiency of his regiment, and his own merits as an officer. It was attached to the 6th Corps, and was engaged in all the battles of the Army of the Potomac up to Winchester. Thence under Sheridan in his campaign into Richmond. It got the honorable nickname of "Upton's Regulars." Other officers from here were Captain Edwin Clark and Douglas Campbell, the latter brevetted major, Lieutenant and Adjutant Francis W. Morse, who became captain on the staff and major by brevet, and Lieutenant James D. Clyde and Wm. Ticker;; Edward Wales and John Daniels, both brave fellows, became sergeants and were killed. The three Wallaces, Spencer, Benjamin, and John, sons of a clergyman (the last of whom was killed), were among the many privates whose services were as valuable as those of many an officer. And John Skinnon, an old veteran of the British army, was another of the same king. When examined for enlistment the doctor pointed to a bullet scar in his chest, remarking, "If that had gone an inch this way it would have killed you."

"Begorra," said John, " and if it had gone wan inch the other way, it wouldn't have hit me at all!"

Besides these bodies of men, there went from the place numerous individuals in other organizations, including the following:

David Little, M. D., went out as assistant surgeon of the 14th, and became a surgeon with the rank of major. Egbert Olcott (a cousin of the before-mentioned of the same name) became a lieutenant in the regular army. Delos Olcott, his brother, became a captain in the 127th, Louis Campbell became a lieutenant in the 152nd, Charles Fry was an assistant surgeon in the 26th.

Colonel Olcott, Captain Delos Olcott, major Young, Captain Edward Swan, Captain Clyde, and Lieutenants Casler, of Springfield, and L. Campbell were all prisoners, and were among the officers placed under fire at Charleston, during the bombardment. Some were exchanged, but others endured unspeakable horrors in the prisons at Savannah, Macon, and Columbia, gaining their liberty, with constitutions in some cases totally impaired, only at the end of the war.

I feel that this list is very imperfectly made up, as almost every day adds a name or an item which ought to go in. My only fear, however, in that the reader a hundred years from now will not believe that out of the two or three thousand people in this town so many could have been send; that the officer alone, so far as named, should number so many as thirty-six, embracing eleven of the rank o f captain, ten of higher grade, six lieutenants, and at least nine subalterns; and that the dead whose fate was ascertained should count up to forty-two. (The History of Otsego, NY, Duane Hamilton Hurd, 1878)

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Transcribed by Holice B. Young

Copyright Debbie Axtman and Holice B. Young

December 23, 1999

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