Campaigns of a veteran volunteer organization: the service of the 5th New York Veteran Volunteer Infantry, Duryee's Zouaves, 1863-1865

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Virginia Tech


In May 1863, the end of service came to one of the most notable regiments in the Army of the Potomac. The 5th New York Volunteer Infantry, Duryée's Zouaves, returned home to be mustered out of service. In the fall of 1863, after being reorganized in the Manhattan area, the 5th New York again took the field as a battalion with four companies of veteran men under the command of Lt. Col. Cleveland Winslow. For seven months the unit occupied the defenses of Washington. In Alexandria the outfit performed duty at the provost marshal's office and undertook various responsibilities. In the Spring of 1864, the Zouaves acted as guards along the vital Orange and Alexandria Railroad, which carried supplies to the Army of the Potomac. Although the 5th New York Battalion was a veteran volunteer organization, it lacked discipline, which Col. Winslow constantly sought to instill. He succeeded, just in time.

The 5th New York returned to the front at the end of May. The Zouaves joined Gen. Gouverneur K. Warren's V Corps of the Army of the Potomac. The consolidation of the 12th New York and the 14th Brooklyn into the 5th New York increased the battalion to regimental strength. On June 2, upon reporting to brigade commander Romeyn Ayres, the regiment immediately found itself in one of its toughest battles at Bethesda Church. Just over two weeks later, the regiment engaged in the June 18 assault against Petersburg.

The 5th New York saw action in all the engagements of the V Corps during the siege of Petersburg, including the Weldon Railroad, Poplar Spring Church, Hatcher's Run, White Oak Road. The Zouaves' crowning glory came at Five Forks. During this battle, the 5th New York, along with the rest of Winthrop's brigade, broke the Confederate line at the strongest point--the "angle." This resulted in the capture of several thousand Confederate prisoners, and more importantly, it severed the Southside Railroad which forced Lee to evacuate Petersburg. Throughout the regiment's field service, it suffered a heavy toll of 391 casualties including several commanding officers.

The Zouaves participated in the Appomattox campaign and the Grand Review, and then they returned to New York. Yet, the regiment was not mustered out of service until August. On August 21, 1865, military life for the heirs of the original 5th New York ended. In two years of service, the 5th New York Veteran Infantry made its own history while attempting to live up to a proud heritage.