EXCELSIOR BRIGADE 1861 RECRUITING POSTER: 72nd NEW YORK

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This is a wonderful early war recruiting broadside for the third regiment of the Excelsior Brigade, the 72nd New York, a regiment with a strong fighting record in the Army of the Potomac from 1861 to through 1864. Dated at bottom left Oct. 10, 1861, the broadside seeks “50 able bodied men” willing to join the regiment for “3 years, or during the war,” offers pay from 13 to 24 dollars a month (standard army enlisted pay rates) from the day of enlistment, and a bounty of $100 and 160 acres of land at the end of their service. It asserts the regiment, then camped near Washington, is composed largely of men from Chautauqua County and invites aspiring soldiers to enlist with Lt. Samuel T. Allen, recruiting officer, at Sinclearville (sic.)

The Excelsior Brigade recruited largely, but not entirely, in New York state, and was the brainchild of Daniel Sickles, a politician of somewhat dubious reputation, who began raising recruits in and around New York City under authority of the War Department in May 1861. He was first made colonel of what would be the 70th NY in June and was promoted to brigadier general in September, taking command of the brigade that would eventually include the 70th to 74th New York Regiments of Volunteers, a post that he had to relinquish from March to May 1862 when Congress initially declined to confirm his commission. His “third regiment” was organized under Col. Nelson Taylor and mustered in by company from June through November 1861. (Taylor would command the brigade several times during Sickles’ absences in 1862 and established a good combat record.)

The recruiter’s claim that the regiment was composed principally of men from Chautauqua County was a bit of a stretch: only Companies B and G were principally from that county. In fact, members came from a number of communities and New Jersey and Vermont each contributed a company as well. That the recruiting office was in Sinclairville suggests the men were destined for the regiment’s Company L, which recruited there and in Delhi and Plattsburgh, as well as in New Jersey and Massachusetts, indicating they were having a hard time filling up. They only joined the regiment on October 25 and were broken up in February 1862, with the men going into other companies. (Recruiting officer Allen seems never to have joined the regiment.)

The regiment served in the Third Corps until April 1864, when the corps was dissolved, and then in the Second Corps as part of Grant’s consolidation of the army. They fought in many of the major engagements of the Army of the Potomac, seeing action and taking losses at Williamsburg and the Seven Days, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness and Spotsylvania. Seven of the companies mustered out in late June 1864 in front of Petersburg. The remaining three were attached to the 120th New York and mustered out in July and October. The regiment lost 118 officers and enlisted men killed in action, 56 who died of wounds, and 354 who were wounded, but recovered in some fashion.

The poster is in excellent condition and has good visual appeal. There is just a little wear to the left edge and small losses to the upper corners. It measures about 13 by 18.75 inches and is framed to about 21 by 27 inches.  [sr]  [ph:m]

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