Three months after my great-grandfather, Archie Van Orden, enlisted in Company D of the NY 12th Infantry, orders were issued to move to Washington, D.C. The regiment assembled in Union Square of NYC, receiving a tumultuous sendoff from many residents. Marching along Broadway towards the wharfs, the clamorous cheering crowds grew in enthusiasm with every passing minute.
The soldiers then boarded the Steamship Baltic, bound for the Capitol of the USA, as the citizens of NYC continued to shout and wave with loud approval.
On the way to Washington, D.C, the 12th infantry was ordered by General Butler to proceed directly to Fortress Monroe in Virginia, preparing for battle. They transferred to a different steamship, The Goatzacoatcos, joining together with a grand fleet carrying Union troops, journeying towards the Peninsula Campaign.
On April 9 – 12, 1865, Archibald Van Orden wore this ribbon on his uniform, signifying his position in an honor guard accompanying General Grant at ceremonies of surrender on the grounds of Appomattox Court House, Virginia.
Worn by Archibald Van Orden, 16th NY Cavalry, at Appomattox, VA.
On April 9, General Lee surrendered his Army of Northern Virginia. On April 10, the CSA cavalry surrendered. On April 11, the CSA artillery surrendered. On April 12, the CSA infantry surrendered. At this final occasion, Joshua Chamberlain ordered the US Army to salute the CS Army with a command of “Order Arms; Carry!” The surrendering forces returned this action of mercy with their own Marching Salute. By honor saluting honor, the two armies began the healing of repatriation.
The painting below depicts cavalry to cavalry surrender on April 10, 1865:
CSA Cavalry surrenders to USA Cavalry.
On February 19, 1861, President-Elect Abraham Lincoln was on a train headed towards Washington D.C. for his inaugural. The train stopped at the Peekskill Depot in Westchester County, NY, to lay on cordwood for the burners and water for the boilers in order to continue the journey.
Townspeople turned out by the thousands for a glimpse of the great man. Among the audience was Archibald Van Orden. The words young Archie heard in the brief remarks made by Lincoln touched his heart and enflamed his courage:
“In regard to the difficulties which lie before me and our beloved country, if I can only be as generously and unanimously sustained as the demonstrations I have witnessed indicate I shall be, I shall not fail. But without your sustaining hands, I am sure that neither I nor any other man can hope to surmount these difficulties. I trust that in the course I shall pursue, I shall be sustained not only by the party that elected me, but by the patriotic people of the whole country.”
Enlisted October 18, 1863 at Greenburgh, NY in the 16th Cavalry, also known as the “Sprague Light Cavalry.” The term “light” meant their regiment did not use horse-drawn artillery, but was intended instead for reconnaissance and raids.
At that time, Archie could legally enlist at age 18. His face, while still beardless, indicates his readiness for battle after his previous infantry service. Perhaps we also see an expression of confidence in a young man who survived war wounds.
Enlisted January 27, 1862 at New York City in Company D of 12th Infantry Regiment. Archie was only 16 when he joined the Union Army. That was two years younger than the legal age. His reasons and methods of enlisting will be revealed in my book. Meanwhile, his beardless face speaks to his youth, while his expression shows seriousness of intent, with perhaps a hint of fear in his eyes.