Welcome to the 179th New York Volunteers!!
Ed Rutan and Brian Dawe have been Civil War buffs since their high school days together nearly fifty years ago. Ed is the great-great grandson of James C. Rutan, Company A, 179th New Volunteers.
This website was created several years ago to support writing a regimental history of the 179th New York Volunteers. The book has now been completed as an e-book – If I Have to Go and Fight, I Am Willing: A Union Regiment Forged in the Petersburg Campaign, The 179th New York Volunteer Infantry 1864-1865. Publication of the e-book is planned for March 2015.
A barebones pamphlet-sized history of the regiment was published in 1900 – History of the 179th Regiment N.Y.S.V. : Rebellion of 1861-65, E.D. Norton, Printer, Ithaca, New York, but the soldiers of the 179th deserve much more than that. The objective of this project is to take a different approach to regimental history.
This project is different from the traditional regimental history in two ways.
First, the scope of the project is much broader. The military part of the history is not limited to just the battles; it will also cover in detail the experiences of the soldiers of the 179th relating to recruiting, desertion, prisoners of war, medical care and transportation and supply logistics. Social, cultural, and political history will include discussion of the role of religion in the lives of the soldiers of the 179th, the 'good death', support from the home front, the pension system, and the 1864 election. These subjects are presented in short subject matter chapters mixed in with the overall chronological flow.
And second, fully utilizing electronic information capabilities will advance the project by:
Increased Visual Capability
Maps, photos, and other visual aids are critical to a fuller understanding of the battles and other aspects of the soldiers' experiences. A website can provide a much richer array of user friendly visual materials than the traditional printed page.
Good maps are essential to military history. See, for example, the one provided in Chapter 16 of the samples. The e-book has thirty maps, mostly in color.
The universe of contemporary sketches and photographs directly related to the experience of the 179th New York Volunteers is much larger than might at first appear. The 'special artists' who covered the war for publications such as Harper's Weekly and Frank Leslie's Illustrated Newspaper were both prolific and seemingly ubiquitous. For example, the soldiers of the Ninth Corps' Second Division (including the 179th New York) were assembled on October 14, 1864 to witness the execution of a deserter from the 2nd Maryland. Company D's John Andrews described the scene in detail in his War Journal. Joseph Becker from Frank Leslie's Newspaper was also present to sketch it. The 179th New York boarded the John Brooks at Alexandria on May 30, 1864 to head to the front. A photographer took a photo of the Quartermaster's Wharf at Alexandria in 1864 with the John Brooks tied up in the center.
The place where the 179th crossed the James River on the march to Petersburg is shown in a contemporary map, a contemporary sketch and a contemporary photo.
The e-book has 180 contemporary photos and sketches.
Participation By Private Collectors
Public collections, such as the National Archives, libraries and historical societies, have been searched for materials relating to the 179th New York Volunteers. However, there undoubtedly are many diaries, letters and other contemporary source materials in private collections not known or accessible to the general public. By making this project available to a wide audience through the Internet, private collectors hopefully will become aware of the project and will be able to see the value that their materials could add to the regimental history and will be encouraged to provide copies. The more soldiers whose voices are heard, the richer the history will be. Revised editions will be prepared if sufficient additional primary source material is received.
A print edition of If I Have Got to Go and Fight, I Am Willing is planned for the summer of 2015. The text and end notes of the print edition will be the same as for the e-book. To maintain visual quality and to keep the price reasonable, the print edition will not contain any of the maps from the e-book and only about sixty of the photos/sketches. However, readers of the print edition will be able to access the omitted maps and photos/sketches on this website without charge under the “Gallery” tab.
FUTURE ELECTRONIC EDITIONS
The electronic medium makes it very easy to create a new edition with new material. If we receive useful comments from readers or receive or locate significant new original source material, we will consider publishing subsequent editions of the e-book. Any new editions will be announced on this website.
WORK IN PROGRESS
A roster, based primarily on the soldiers' compiled military service records at the National Archives, is underway. Our plan is to supplement the information in the CMSRs with information from the soldiers' carded medical records. Using that information, we are considering identifying the names associated with the casualties in the 179th New York's six battles.