Quotes regarding the 14th Brooklyn N.Y.S.M. during the Civil War

Marcelin Gauffraw, Company H. The backmark on the photograph is Whitehurst, Gallery, Washington D.C.

Marcelin Gauffraw, Company H. The backmark on the photograph is Whitehurst, Gallery, Washington D.C.

The following is a list of quotes about the 14th Brooklyn, New York State Militia, compiled by Bob Duffy in the mid-1980s. The 14th Brooklyn is an oft-overlooked regiment that fought in 22 major engagements during their three years with the Army of the Potomac.

“There was no corps in the war to which I was more, if as much, attached, as to the Fourteenth of Brooklyn. I mustered it into service, and had it constantly with me; first took it into action and personally led it a second time up the hill against the enemy It was not only a most gallant regiment¸ but a most orderly and intelligent one, and one which with most pride I used to point out to our distinguished visitors.”– Major General Irvin McDowell, 1869 

“On many a weary march and many a hard fought field, I have seen their courage and devotion. Their name was a household word in the army – they were the elite of our division.” – Major General Abner Doubleday, 1886

“The enemy were a portion of the Fourteenth New York State Militia of Brooklyn, and fought with much more bravery than the Federal troops usually exhibit.” – Lieutenant Colonel Fitzhugh Lee, 1861 

“The men of that regiment were from the city, clerks, book-keepers and business men. They were full of shrewd devices to avoid unnecessary hardships.” – Colonel Rufus Dawes, 6th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry, 1862 

“The Brooklyn Zouaves attained a place in history at the first day’s battle at Gettysburg, by their efficiency under fire and the bravery of their colonel.” – F. Miller, Photographic History of the Civil War, New York, 1911, Vol. 9, p. 346. 

“With a toughness, a discipline and an esprit de corps seldom equaled in our military history, Brooklyn’s Red Legged Devils fought through from First Bull Run to Spotsylvania.” – Bruce Catton, historian, 1961 

“The Famous Brooklyn 14th are here, guarding the town. You see their red legs actively moving everywhere.” – Walt Whitman at Culpeper, Virginia, 1864

“The Rev. Henry Ward Beecher was next introduced, and delivered a short address in his usual forcible manner. He commenced by alluding to the glorious career of the 14th regiment since the first battle of Bull Run, and spoke of the interest which Plymouth Church had always taken in the success of the regiment, although when the members of Plymouth Church first took an interest in the regiment, they had no idea how much credit they were destined to bring upon all who befriended them. He (the speaker) had no desire to rob any regiment of the credit justly belonging to it, but he could say that there was no other city in the United States, which has so much reason to e proud of her favorite regiment, than Brooklyn had to be of her glorious 14th. (Great cheering.)” – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, September 30, 1862 

“Yesterday on dress parade we had about 75 persons to look at us. We are the pet regiment in this place & in fact wherever we go the people like us. The other day I heard people say that they were glad that we had come back here as they did not like the Pennsylvania Reserve. They did not treat them like our boys did.” – First Sergeant William C. Rae, 14th Brooklyn N.Y.S.M. Company B, June 23, 1862 at Falmouth, Virginia (opposite Fredericksburg) 

“The 14th has won that respect from the foe which a brave regiment deserves. When on the Rappahannock the pickets of the 14th used to make frequent trades with the picket on the other side, and the enemy’s pickets were always desirous to know when the 14th boys would be down.” – Brooklyn Daily Eagle, July 7, 1863 

“The Volunteer regiments were constantly breaking, they would break, and then we would rally two or three regiments and bring them up again. The New York 14th (Brooklyn) that behaved so well as broken up nearly all to pieces at the first fire. But they rallied again and went up with Griffin’s battery, and stood their ground remarkably well.” – Brigadier General Andrew Porter recalling First Bull Run, 1862 

“Captain W.C. Connor, C.S.A. of Natchez, Miss. when asked which U.S. unit fought the most gallantly at Bull Run replied, “The 14th of Brooklyn, and Griffin’s and Ricketts batteries fought by far the most gallantly. This is the opinion of all of our officers.” – New York Post, May 18, 1862 

“The troops reviewed made an excellent appearance…One regiment, however, attracted particularly the attention of not only the President and General Hooker, but, in fact, all others present. This was the Brooklyn Fourteenth, N.Y.S.M., or better known by the soubriquet applied to it by the rebels in the first battle of Bull Run, as “The Red Legged Devils,” because they fought so desperately. As this regiment passed in review, “Splendid,” “That is splendid,” was uttered on all sides – and it was a splendid sight.” – New York Times, April 13, 1863 

“Once when the regiment was out of the works and waiting in the hollow before described, a Brooklyn regiment in Zouave uniform was also waiting to be ordered to the front. It was whispered around that they were reputed to be a “Bully fighting regiment,” and therefore attracted attention. They were mostly young men and presented a tidy and smart appearance.” – Culp’s Hill, Gettysburg, after the first days fight. From “Memoirs of the 149th N.Y. Vol. Infantry,” 1891, p. 144. 

“Much consideration must be had for officers who were never before under fire…There were some noble exceptions, the officers of the 27th and 14th advanced cheering their men and fell one after another with dreadful frequency.” – Captain W.W. Averell on the 27th New York Volunteer Infantry and the 14th Brooklyn N.Y.S.M. at Bull Run.

“…the 14th done nobly and the secessionists hate them worse than poison they will not burry any red pants.” – William C. Everett, 14th N.Y.S.M. Company D, August 2, 1861

“We have left only 9 officers & 114 men. The balance are killed, wounded & missing. I will try & write you again unless I should get killed. If I am wounded I will then have a chance to write from the hospital. I do not know whether this letter will go or not.” – First Sergeant William C. Rae, 14th Brooklyn N.Y.S.M. Company B, August 31, 1862. During the Second Bull Run Campaign after he was hit in the shoulder with a spent ball.

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Member - Minnesota Civil War Commemoration Task Force, Civil War reenactor and historian since 1993, holds Bachelor's Degree in History from Concordia University-St. Paul, currently pursuing Master's Degree in History at St. Cloud State University and is author of the forthcoming book, "Muskets and Memories: A Modern Man's Journey through the Civil War."
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