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.
Freedom’s Fortress was the nickname given to Fort Monroe, VA by African-Americans seeking refuge from slavery they suffered from the CSA in 1861. Fort Monroe, though located in rebel territory, remained in Union control in the Civil War. It was even garrisoned by former slaves, in advance of their emancipation.
Since the shipping lanes from the north to Fort Monroe remained open, Union troops and military equipment arrived there before the Peninsula Campaign of 1862 aimed at the capitol of the south, Richmond. When my great-grandfather, Archie Van Orden, disembarked at Fort Monroe in May 1862, his NY 12th Infantry was eager to restore Union to the country, thereby ending the stain of slavery.
My great-grandfather, Archie, enlisted in the 12th Regiment of the US Infantry at Forth Hamilton, facing New York’s harbor from Brooklyn, on January 27, 1862. He soon met three young Union soldiers arrayed in their military regalia.
Drummers and buglers were vitally important to train new recruits in drills they would need to use in action one day. Drum tattoos and bugle calls initiated everything from charges to retreats, rallying troops in the din of warfare. Though still young boys, these three were already veterans of battle at Bull Run.
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.
The great-great-great-grandfather of Archibald Van Orden was named Pieter Casparszen VanNaerden. (Translated into English his name means Peter the son of Caspar from Naerden.) Pieter was the first Dutch ancestor of our family who sailed to the new world, arriving at Nieuw Amsterdam in 1623. By the time of Pieter’s death in 1664, the city known today as New York looked like this, with a stout wall on its north end to ward off attacks from native peoples:
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.