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.
This is Thomas Corbett. He was known by his fellow Union soldiers as “Boston.” Boston served directly with my great-grandfather, Archie, in the NY 12th Infantry and the NY 16th Cavalry. After the Civil War, Boston Corbett became one of the most renowned people in the USA. Over time, his fame faded, he dropped from public view, and his reputation was sullied by much speculation. Archie’s view of what really happened to his sergeant and friend will be revealed in my book.
A few years before this photo was taken, this man served in the NY 16th Cavalry, alongside my great-grandfather, Archibald Van Orden. Fate brought them together to endure the same dangers as they fought the enemy in war. Do you recognize him?
In peace, destiny drove this man to patent the invention he envisioned when he was a prisoner of war in 1864. Do you recognize what this drawing shows?
Later, this man became a key protagonist in the “battle of currents” with Thomas Edison. Edison backed Direct Current. This man backed Alternating Current. AC went on to predominance as the electricity that we use at home today.
As time progressed, his company grew into a 20th century manufacturing power, and continues even into our 21st century lives.
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.
This tintype depicts Archie circa 1853 when his family lived in New York City, prior to moving to “the country” in Westchester County not long afterwards. Archie’s not-quite-smiling young face reveals the clearly carved, yet smooth, features that would define his dutch ancestry for the rest of his long life.
Tintype Circa 1853
The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, part of our Bill of Rights, states: “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”
For defense of their family, for hunting game for their table, and in preparation for protecting their country, Archie Van Orden’s father, Abraham, gave his son the gift of a Springfield rifle to mark the occasion of his 15th birthday.
Archie Van Orden carried this photograph of his younger sister, Martina, in his breast pocket, throughout the civil war. She was a reminder of the home and family for which he he was fighting to restore the Union. Her image was constant solace during war and wounds, watching over him in battles and imprisonment.
In 1864, Archie Van Orden crafted a crude spoon together using nothing but tin scraps and ingenuity. The story of how this spoon kept him alive when thousands of others perished in the most desperate conditions will be revealed in my book.
Until then, Archie’s own words (written to his family) suffice to tell of its import: “Though a miserable excuse for a spoon, I would not trade it for a silver service.”