Military Records Include Rebels.(SATURDAY)(THE CIVIL WAR)

Article excerpt

Byline: Cliff Johns, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The National Archives on Constitution Avenue NW holds the service records of most soldiers and sailors, including - thanks to the diligence of Confederate Adjutant General Samuel Cooper - those of Confederates.

Applying for photocopies of a record is a simple matter, accomplished in just a few hours. For example, the record of Albert Bartlett of Fredonia, N.Y., shows that he was a 21-year-old farmer with a wife and daughter and that he enlisted in the 49th New York Regiment of Volunteers, Company A, in September 1861. He was the maternal great-grandfather of Herndon resident Diana Jeanne Beck.

Formation and mustering-in of New York regiments followed not only President Lincoln's call for 75,000 volunteers in response to the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, but the shattering Union defeat at Manassas in July that demonstrated it would be a long war.

The 49th's colonel, Daniel Davidson Bidwell, was a well-known and well-liked military man from Buffalo, and most of his soldiers hailed from there - so the unit was called the 2nd Buffalo. Local ladies presented the citizen-soldiers with a U.S. flag bearing this identifying legend, which they carried into battle.

Arriving in the spring of 1862 on the Virginia Peninsula formed by the York and James Rivers, the 49th experienced its baptism of fire, and during that winter, it fought through the disastrous Union assault at Fredericksburg. In 1864, it found itself heavily engaged during Gen. Ulysses S. Grant's Overland Campaign, suffering severe casualties in the Wilderness and especially at Spotsylvania (where a handsome, prominent monument - still visible - was erected to their service near the Bloody Angle).

In the summer of 1864, the 49th defended Fort Stevens during Confederate Gen. Jubal Early's attack on the Washington defenses. That fall, Col. Bidwell was killed during action at Cedar Creek against Early's retreating army and was breveted brigadier general for heroism. The siege of Petersburg followed, and several of the Confederates' attempted breakouts rounded out the 49th's Civil War service.

The remnants marched in the Grand Review down Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington in May 1865. The 49th briefly provided military order in war-torn Virginia (Military District No. 1), then answered the last muster roll on June 17, 1865, and returned home to New York state. Fewer than 300 remained of the original 1,000.

Ms. Beck's ancestor, however, met his soldier's moment of personal sacrifice early - near the Dunker Church at Antietam on the afternoon of Sept. 17, 1862, as his unit was ordered to stop the Confederates advancing from the West Woods. …