Company Flags of the USSS-Company 'B' 1st USSS
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Author:  Bill Skillman [ Sun Apr 07, 2013 9:24 pm ]
Post subject:  Company Flags of the USSS-Company 'B' 1st USSS

William Sankey of Co. B (Long Island Company) 1st USSS wrote his parents from Yorktown, Va; April 16, 1862. I believe the action he described was the skirmish at Cockeltown, Va. the day before arriving at the Yorktown fortifications.

"...I fired five shots, and am well satisfied that I finished the career of two Rebel (cavalrymen). It got so smokey that we could not tell whether our shots took effect or not. The enemy must have thought there was a large body of us, as we each had a (Colt) five shooter. The rifles did good execution that day."

We proceeded to take possession of the fort, and tumbled up the side of the embankment, all cheering as we saw our Albany flag floating proudly over the ramparts--placed there by Lt. Nash. We did not find much in the fort, as the Rebels had carried off the artillery, and as the excitement was wearing off we lay down, completely fagged out.

...Just then Col. Berdan rode up, accompanied by Gen. Porter and, I think a reporter of the New York Times. They gave us great praise for our little job, and the reporter took down the name of the cmopany and the account of the whole transaction, so I expect you will hear of Company B in the New York papers. Our flag (the one you saw) is the first Union flag which has floated above Big Bethel since the commencement of the War; and Company B has the honor of having had the first fight in this part of the country. None of our men were hurt, and not one of them shirked their duty.

Another reference of a USSS company carried their colors (made especially for their unit) into combat. Letters from Berdan's Sharpshooters is an excellent little book. It features letters written (predominantly) by U.S. Sharpshooters from New York. I highly recommend it for the 'little jewels' like the one I found above.

Source: Murphy, R.L. Letters from Berdan's Sharpshooters. Benedum Books Wolcott, NY 2005

Author:  Bill Skillman [ Mon Apr 22, 2013 10:16 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Company Flags of the USSS-Company 'B' 1st USSS

My eagle-eyed comrade, Brian White, became intrigued about my post of Company flags carried by the USSS during the early actions of the War. He did some digging and found this nice bit of research over the weekend:

Brian wrote: "I found yet another reference to a company flag on page 213 in the book Presentation of Flags of New York Volunteer Regiments and Other Organizations. This is a description of flags turned over to Governor Fenton in July 1865, and included the company flag of the "Second Company Sharpshooters, N.Y.S.V." which would be Co. B 1st USSS. It's described as: "Banner, silk; inscribed "New York Sharp Shooters." This flag was presented to the Company by John Clark, Esq., on behalf of the citizens of Albany. It was the first color in the Army of the Potomac that was planted on rebel breastworks, viz., at Mill Spring, 1862 - this Company being in the advance from Hampton to Yorktown." A short service history follows which does place this flag as being carried by Co. B."

I became intrigued by Brian's post and was pleased to find the Presentation of Flags of New York Volunteers online. The following is the full description of the Company 'B' flag: "COLORS OF THE 2d COMPANY SHARP SHOOTERS, N. Y. S. V. One Flag. 1. Banner, silk; inscribed, "New York Sharp Shooters." This Flag was presented to the Company by JOHN CLARK, Esq., on behalf of the citizens of Albany. It was the first Color in the Army of the Potomac that was planted on rebel breastworks, viz., at Mill Spring, 1862-this Company being in the advance from Hampton to Yorktown. The Second Company of the 1st Regiment N. Y. Sharp Shooters was organized in the city of New York, and left the State September 5, 1861, with 80 men. It participated in the following engagements, viz., Yorktown, Hanover Court House, Fair Oaks, Savage's Station, White Oak Swamp, Charles City Cross Roads, Malvern Hill, 2d Bull Run, Fredericksburgh, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Mine Run, Wilderness, Spottsylvania Court House, Coal Harbor, North Anna, Tolopotomy Creek, and in several engagements before Petersburgh. It was discharged from service August 29, 1864.

I found the impromptu closing speech by Gen. Daniel Sickles (given at the audiences insistence) poignantly captured hopes and dreams of the assembled veterans:

IN response to urgent and repeated calls, General SICKLES came forward, and when the long continued applause with which he was received had ceased, spoke briefly. He apologized for not speaking sooner, as he could not have done so without interrupting the order of proceedings prescribed for the occasion. After alluding to the soldiers who are returning to their homes, their high character and worth, and their claims upon the consideration of the government and the gratitude of the people, he said: "Our country has shown in the war-now happily closedthat it has the will and the means to maintain its liberties and its nationality. The people have yet a high and patriotic duty to discharge, in contributing to the pacification and restoration of the Union. We will not heed the advice of nations that desire our dismemberment. We will not imitate England in her persecution of Ireland; we will not follow Austria in her immolation of Hungary. No! Our people will prove that they can not only put down rebellion, but that they can establish order in place of anarchy, and that they can restore loyalty where treason has hauled down its flag. How will we do this? By the justice of our government; by the magnanimity of our policy; and by charity in our own hearts. These sentiments will give that wisdom to our councils which will conquer all the difficulties and embarrassments of the situation. Our patriotic President and our chivalrous General-in-Chief have already invoked this spirit among the people. The President has shown us, in his wise measures of administration, an example of the means by which genuine amity can be established. And, if anything be wanting, let us seek the inspiration of the lamented LINCOLN. Let us build a heaven-high monument to that great and beloved magistrate, by adhering to the considerate and beneficent policy that we all know emanated from his generous and noble heart. He told us of his hope and aspiration for the future, in the concluding words of his last inaugural address.'The time will come,' he said,'when the mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearth-stone throughout the land, shall swell the chorus of the Union, when touched again, as surely they will be, by the bettei angels of our nature.'"

Bill Skillman
Hudson Squad Mess-USSS

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