The Civil War in the East

159th New York Infantry Regiment "2nd Duchess and Columbia Regiment"

The 159th New York Infantry Regiment lost 10 officers and 74 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded and 1 officer and 130 enlisted men to disease during the Civil War.



August 28

Lieutenant Colonel Edward L. Molineux, 23d Militia, received authority to recruit the regiment in the first three Senatorial Districts of the State. 

September 3

Colonel Homer Nelson was authorize to recruit in the 11th Senatorial District for the 167th Infantry Regiment

October 28

The men enlisted for the 167th Infantry under Colonel Nelson, were sent from Hudson to East New York to be united with those of the 159th Infantry. The combined regiment retained the number of Lieutenant-Colonel Molineux's regiment, which formed Companies B, F, H and K, the remaining companies being formed of the men enlisted originally for the 167th Infantry. 


The companies were recruited principally:
A at Hudson, Greenport, New Lebanon, Livingston, Claverack and Ghent

C at Hudson, Taghkanick, Copake, Stockport, Livingston, Gallatin, Claverack, Stuyvesant and Germantown;
D at Brooklyn, Hudson, Fishkill and Ghent;
E at Ghent, Claverack, Hudson, Copake, Livingston, Hillsdale, Fishkill, Greenport,
Stuyvesant and Taghkanick;
G at Hudson, Kinderhook, Claverack, Stockport, Ghent, Chatham, Taghkanick, New Lebanon, Fishkill and Poughkeepsie;
I at Hudson, Poughkeepsie, Gallatin, Livingston, Pleasant Valley and Taghkanick

B, H and K at Brooklyn and F at Brooklyn and Brookhaven by Lieutenant Colonel Molineux

November 1

Mustered in for three years service at Park Barracks in New York City under Colonel Homer A. Nelson, Lieutenant-Colonel Edward L. Molineux and Major Gilbert A. Draper.

November 2

Left Park Barracks and embarked for Staten Island, then marched inland to New Dorp and established Camp Nelson. The regiment was issued Austrian muskets, most of which could not be fired, which were used for drill but replaced with Enfields before the regiment left the state.

November 24

Returned to New York City and embarked on steam transport Northern Light. Colonel Nelson resigned to accept his seat in the U.S. Congress, and Lieutenant Colonel Molineux was promoted to colonel assumed command of the regiment, while Major Draper was promoted to lieutenant colonel. Captain Charles A. Burt of the 91st New York Infantry was appointed major of the 159th.

December 4

Left State for New Orleans, La. Over 1,200 men were crowded aboard the ship, and Corporal James Bennet of Company D died en route and was buried at sea.

December 13

Arrived at Ship Island, Mississippi

December 17

Arrived at Baton Rouge, La., after a 23 day voyage of 2,292 miles. Attached to Grover's Division, Dept. of the Gulf.



Assigned to 3rd Brigade, 4th Division, 19th Army Corps, Dept. of the Gulf

March 7-27

Operations against Port Hudson, La.

March 13

Colonel Molineux assumed command of a provisional brigade which included the 159th, which marched nine miles that day and twelve miles the next to the rear of Port Hudson.

March 20

Returned to Baton Rouge

March 28

Moved to Donaldsonville on the transport Laurel Hill

March 31

Guarded division supplies on the transport Empire Parish to Thibodeaux

April 3

Marched to Terrebonne

April 4

Moved by rail on the New Orleans and Opelousas Railroad to Bayouu Boeuf.

April 8

Marched seven miles to Brashear City, leaving all but necessary baggage behid (which was subsequently burned and lost).

April 9-May 14

Operations in Western Louisiana

April 11-20

Expedition to Franklin and Opelousas, Teche Campaign

April 11

Moved by tansport Laurel Hill up Berwick Bay and Atchafalaya Bay to the McWilliams plantation on Grand Lake.

April 14

Irish Bend

The regiment was ordered to advance at the double quick across an open field against a Confederate line sheltered by a fence and woods. The 159th came within 50 yards of the enemy before halting to commence fire. Colonel Molineux had just given the order to continue the advance when a rifle ball entered his mouth and passed out his left cheek, carrying away half his upper jaw, and at the same moment a Confederate attack struck the regiment's flank. The 159th was almost out of ammunition, and was ordered to fall back to the edge of the field. But reinforcements moved up against the Confederates, who retreated.


The regiment lost Lieutenant Colonel Draper, Adjutant Robert Lathrop, 1st Lieutenant John Manley Jr., 1st Lieutenant William R. Plunkett, 2nd Lieutanant Byron F. Lockwood, Second Lieutenant Charles P. Price and 30 enlisted men killed and mortally wounded; Colonel Molineux, 2nd Lieutenant William F. Tiemann, Captain Wells O. Pettit, and 62 men wounded; and 16 men missing. It was the greatest loss of any regiment in the fight. Amazingly, Colonel Molineux survived to return to command the regiment.


Major Burt, who had been detached to Genral Grover's staff, was promoted to lieutenant colonel and took command of the regiment. Captin Edward Gaul was promoted to major.

April 15

Marched 15 miles north to McGuire's plantation.

April 16

Marched 10 miles to New Iberia.

April 17

Marched 20 miles to Bayou Vermillion. Private Appleton W. Rackett was killed and Private William J. Brown was wounded drawing water.

April 20


April 29

Arrived at Berwick City with 5,000 head of horses and cattle collected from the area.


Governor Welles of Louisiana gave Colonel Molineux a bear cub, who the colonel presented to the regiment as a mascot.

May 5-18

Marched 60 miles to Alexandria and Simsport.

May 22-25

Moved to Port Hudson via the Empire Parish

May 25-July 9

Siege of Port Hudson

May 27

Assault on Port Hudson

After a long approach march, an unsuccessful attack was made that got within 30 yards of the Confederate defences. Color Corporal Jonathan Race was killed and Color Sergeant William Spanburg wounded in three places and the color staff shot into two pieces. 14 men were killed, and Captain Charles Lewis and 39 men wounded, four of whom later died. The regiment huddled on the field until after 11 p.m., when it withdrew. It temporarily consolidated into five companies afterward due to a lack of company officers.

May 18 - June 13

Manned rifle pits and furnished skirmishers throughout the siege.

June 14

Assault on Port Hudson

the second assault was also unsuccessful, costing 14 men wounded and 2 missing.

July 9

Surrender of Port Hudson

One thousand volunteers were called for to create a storming column and the regiment provided 18 men, but the Confederates surrendered their position before the assault could be made.

July 11

Embarked on steamer Iberville for Donaldsonville

July 15

Colonel Molineux returned from his wound, partially recovered, rsuming command from Lieutenant Colonel Burt.

July 16

Crossed to east bank of Mississippi

July 29

Marched 73 miles to Carrollton as esort to baggage wagons.

August 15

Assigned to 1st Brigade, 4th Division, 19th Army Corps

August 29

Post and garrison duty at Thibodeaux encamped on the plantation of Madame Guion

September 27

Colonel Molineux was detailed to Geneal Franklin's staff, and Lieutenant Colonel Burt assumed field command.


January 7

Lieutenant Colonel Burt resigned on surgeon's certificate. Captain Hart took command of the regiment.

January 15

Major Edward Gaul, on detached duty in Albany, was promoted to lieutenant colonel and assumed command.


Assigned to 2nd Brigade, 2nd Division, 19th Army Corps. Dept. of the Gulf.

February 25

Lieutenant Colonel Gaul arrived from New York and took command of the regiment. Captain William Waltermire of Company E was promoted to major. A new Company G joined the regiment, having been recruited at Hudson, and the remnants of the original Company G were consolidated among the other companies. Most of the new company were veterans of the 14th New York Infantry.

March 2

Ten men of the regiment were sentenced before the Provost Court with braking into slave cabins on a plantation, raping women, and stealing money, clothing and several hundred pounds of sugar. They were sentenced to the Dry Tortugas, one for life at hard labor, one for ten years, and the others for between 3 and eight years.

March 21

Travelled by rail to Algiers.

March 24

Embarked by steamer James Battell to Alexandria, Louisiana.

March 25-May 22

Red River Campaign

April 9

With many men detached and a number cashiered or resigned, only nine officers were on duty with the regiment.

April 11

Guarding stores in Alexandria

April 23

Cane River Crossing

April 24

Colonel Molineux resumed command of the regiment

April 29

Crossed river to Pineville to cover work on the dam

April 30-May 10

Construction of dam at Alexandria. Colonel Molineux takes command of the brigade, Lieutenant Colonel Gaul took command of the regiment.

May 13-20

Retreat to Morganza

May 16



Duty at Morganza

June 1-2

Colonel Molineux let for New Orleans sick. Lieutenant Colonel Gaul was discharged, Major Waltermire was promoted to lieutenant colonel and Captain Robert Hart promoted to major.

July 17-25

Moved to New Orleans, La., thence to Fortress Monroe and Bermuda Hundred, Va. with the first two divisions of the corps.

June 19

Embarked on steamer Ohio Belle for Fort Adams, Mississippi, then returning to Morganza.

July 2

Embarked on transport Lancaster No. 4 for Algiers.

July 4

Arrived in algiers, staying in the Belvedier Iron Foundry in almost unbearable heat

July 8

Presented with a stand of colors and two guidons as a gift of the 23rd New York State National Guard

July 17

Embarked on steamer Cahawba for Fortress Monroe along with the 131st New York and the 22nd Iowa, over 1350 men

July 24

Arrived off Fortress Monroe after a 1,771 mile voyage and continued up the river to Bermuda Hundred

July 26

Duty in trenches at Bermuda Hundred between batteries 5 and 6 near Hatcher's Houseassigned to the 10th Army Corps

July 31-August 2

Moved to Washington, D.C. under the command of Colonel Molineux via the transport Cahawba and marched up Pennsylvania Avenue (the bear at the head of the column, drawing considerable attention) to the "Soldiers Rest" at the railroad station. The regiment later camped near the fortifications northwest of the Capitol.

August 7-
November 28

Sheridan's Shenandoah Valley Campaign. Assigned to the Army of the Shenandoah, Middle Military Division.

August 14-17

Marched to Berryville via the Leesburg Pike, Drainesville, Leesburg, Purcellville and Snickers Gap.

August 21-22

Near Charlestown

August 24

Skirmish at Halltown

Captain Wells Petit was badly wounded and 9 enlisted men wounded, 2 mortally.

September 4

On Skirmish line at Berryville.

Henry Karcher was killed to artillery fire.

September 19

Battle of Winchester

The regiment lost Lieutenant Herman Smith and 11 men killed or mortally wounded, Captain Joseph McNutt, Lieutenants Edward Duffy, Henry Howard and 40 enlisted men wounded, and Captain William Tiemann and 19 men captured, of whom 8 later died in captivity.

September 22

Fisher's Hill

September 23 - 25

Convoyed prisoners and captured equipment to Winchester, returning with a supply train, having marched 97 miles in four days.

October 6-8

To Mount Jackson, then on to Woodstock

October 19

Battle of Cedar Creek

The regiment lost Major Robert M. Hart, Captain Duncan Richmond, 1 other officer and 4 enlisted men killed or mortally wounded, First Lieutenant Barzillai Ransom and 10 enlisted men wounded, and 6 men missing. Major Hart had been serving on General Grover's staff and fell into Confederate hands after being wounded, dying from loss of blood after being recaptured in the afternoon. Three Confederate officers and 31 men were captured in a charge during the second phase of the battle.


Duty at Kernstown and Winchester


January 6

Marched to Stephenson's Depot, then by train to Harpers Ferry and on to Baltimore, packed tightly into dirty boxcars.

January 7

Arrived in Baltimore and quartered in the overcrowded and dirty barracks at Camp Carroll.

January 13

Left the battacks and marched through Baltimore to the wharf, the bear drawing a large crowd.

January 14

Colonel Waltermire took command of the regiment. Embarked on steamer Sua-Noda for Savannah and assigned to 2nd Brigade, Grover's Division, District of Savannah, Ga., Dept. of the South

January 20

Transferred to steamer George Leary, taken upriver and landed in Savannah and quartered in the Georgia Central Railroad Station

January 26

Took position in fortifications west of the city.

March 9

Moved to Hilton Head by steamer U.S.Grant

March 15

Moved to Charleston S.C. and then Morehead City, N.C. on the transport New York, transferring to the H.M. Wells.

March 28

The regiment lost to the 176th New York Infantry 19 to 17 in baseball.

April 11

In a return match, the regiment beat the 176th 17-16. Just before midnight news was received of Lee's surrender, resulting in an all-night celebration.

May 3

To Savannah, Ga. on the steamer Star of the South and assigned to District of Savannah, Ga., Dept. of the South

May 11 - 17

Moved to Augusta by combination of march and rail


Assigned to District of Augusta, Ga., Dept. of Georgia

August 4

William watermire was promoted to colonel, Wells Pettit to lieutenant colonel and William Tiemann to major, but the numerical strength of the regiment was insufficient for them to be mustered in the grade.

October 9

While awaiting transportation a fire broke out in the barracks, killing one man and the regimental mascot, a bear named Bruin, as well as destroying the regiment's colors, a great deal of equipment, and almost all of the men's personal clothing and effects.

October 12

Thirteen officers and 333 men mustered out under Colonel William Waltermire and Major Wells Petit at Augusta, Ga.

October 13-15

Marched 52 miles to the Central Railroad

October 16

By rail to Savannah

October 18

Embarked on steamer Varuna

October 25

Mustered out of state service

October 27

The Columbia County companies left by rail for a large public reception at Hudson and home.


Compendium of the War of the Rebellion, Frederick Dyer

The 159th Regiment Infantry, William Francis Tiemann, Brooklyn, 1891

New York in the War of the Rebellion, 3rd ed. Frederick Phisterer. Albany: J. B. Lyon Company, 1912.

About the Author • ©2015 Steve Hawks