Sons of Union Veterans of The Civil War
Department of New York
Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis Camp 124

A Brief History of the 124th NYVI
and Colonel Augustus van Horne Ellis

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Augustus van Horne Ellis

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          Augustus van Horne Ellis, first Colonel of the 124th New York State Volunteer Infantry,
     was born May 1, 1827, the son of Samuel Corp Ellis of New York City. His early schooling
     was at Columbia, where he studied the classics, mathematics and chemistry. He read briefly
     for the law, but left his studies to pursue an adventurous career in whaling, firefighting, real
     estate and as Post Captain of the Royal Hawaiian Navy. He later served as a ship's master
     for Commodore Vanderbilt in his shipping operations out of New Orleans.

           Ellis returned to the east in 1857, where he met and  married Maria Verplanck Miller,
     daughter of Philip Verplanck and the widow of Christopher Blackburn Miller of
     Woodbourne Hall, New Windsor, NY.

           At the outbreak of the Civil War, Ellis entered the Union Army as Captain of Company L
     (The Howitzer Company) of the 71st New York State Militia, and fought with the regiment at
     the First Battle of Bull Run. Returning to Orange County, NY, Ellis was named
     Lieutenant-Colonel of the newly-formed Tenth Legion, an innovatively-constituted
     "super-regiment" consisting of infantry, artillery, and cavalry all under one command.

           After having trained the Tenth Legion, Ellis resigned his commission in order to seek a
     Colonelcy of a regiment of volunteers. He received permission to commence the raising of a
     regiment of infantry in Orange County, NY. The regiment Ellis raised would become the
     124th New York Volunteer Infantry - "The Orange Blossoms."

           The newly-formed regiment saw service with the Army of the Potomac in the battles of
     Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Brandy Station, where Ellis acted as  Brigadier-General,
     commanding a part of the infantry component of this battle.

           Augustus van Horne Ellis was killed in action on July 2, 1863 while leading a charge of the
     124th NYVI at Houck's Ridge near Gettysburg, PA. The regimental monument, a granite
     statue of the late Colonel, now stands at the point of the ridge where he fell. Ellis was
     promoted Brigadier-General of Volunteers for meritorious and valorous service in the battle.

 

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124th NYVI - "The Orange Blossoms"

           The 124th New York Volunteer Infantry was raised in Orange County, NY under a warrant
     granted to Augustus van Horne Ellis in answer to President Abraham Lincoln's call for
     300,000 volunteers in April of 1862. Although raised entirely within Orange County, the
     organization was not designated a "County-only" regiment and also boasted members from
     Ulster, Dutchess, Putnam, Rockland and Westchester Counties. Later replacements would be
     drawn from these recruiting districts as well as from Elmira Rendezvous, from which men
     from northern and western New York were also signed on.

           The 124th entered active service in September 1862 and were sent from Park Barracks in
     New York City, to Washington D.C., where they underwent training while serving in the
     defense of the Capitol. They were transferred to the Army of the Potomac where they were
      placed under the command of Brigadier-General Amiel Whipple: 2nd Brigade, 3rd Division,
     III Corps.   The 124th was involved in the abortive battle of Fredericksburg, and took part in
     the "Mud March" which followed. They were later committed to battle at Chancellorsville
     where Colonel Ellis distributed orange ribbons to his men to serve as an organizational
     distinction. Sgt. Thomas Bradley of Waldon, NY was awarded the Medal of Honor for
     service above and beyond the call of duty at this battle.

          "The Orange Blossoms," as they came to be known, were called to serve as infantry
     support to the great cavalry battle at Brandy Station and were then transferred to the 2nd
     Brigade, 1st Division, III Corps, as the "Kearny Division," which had as its Corps badge, a
     red diamond. This patch is credited by most military historians as the source of all
     organizational patches in the modern US army. It is borne today by the 5th Mechanized
     Infantry Division. The 124th NYVI has also been linked, by some literary historians, with
     Stephen Crane's The Red Badge of Courage. Crane is known to have interviewed veterans of
     the 124th while doing research for his book.

           As a fighting regiment, the 124th suffered heavy casualties from both the battle of
     Chancellorsville (~35% KIA, WIA, MIA) and Gettysburg (~33%). Among those killed at
     Gettysburg were Colonel Ellis and Major James Cromwell. The badly-understrength battalion
     then participated in the Mine Run Campaign as they pursued the Army of Northern Virginia
     back into the South.

           The following Spring, the 124th was transferred into the 3rd Division, II Corps, when the
     III Corps was phased out of existence. The 124th persisted, however, in wearing their red
     diamonds until the Corps Commander finally granted all such "Old Thirds" permission to
     retain their former, honorable devices.

          Ulysses S. Grant's accession to Lieutenant-General of the US Army changed the style of
     fighting for the Army of the Potomac. Where before, the combat style had harked back to
     Napoleon with its long lines of exposed marching infantry, Grant's new style made use of
     cover, fortification, and trenches, in a doctrine resembling that which would be seen in World
     War I. The "Orange Blossoms" fought under Grant for the entire Overland Campaign of
     1864 before settling down for the Siege of Petersburg, which lasted until April of 1865.

           The 124th participated in the last campaign of the war, at Appomattox, and were present on
     the field at the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant by Robert E. Lee. The
     regiment returned to Orange County on June 13, 1865, where they were honorably mustered
     out at Washington's Headquarters in Newburgh, NY.

 

For More Information About the 56th NYVI - The Tenth Legion
and To Visit The Site of Their Present-Day Re-enactment Group,
Click Below:

56th NYVI - The Tenth Legion

For More Information About the 71st Regiment NYS National Guard
and Their Present-Day
Veterans Association,
Click Below:

71st Regiment

For More Information About the 124th NYVI
and To Visit The Site of Their Present-Day Re-enactment Group,
Click Below:

124th New York Volunteer Infantry

 

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