Major J.W. Young

From the Regimental History (A.P. Smith, 1867)

John W. Young was born in Springfield, Otsego county, N. Y. He was reading law in that town, when he entered the service in September, 1861. One of the first companies mustered into the Otsego Regiment was from his native town. With this company he enlisted, and was very active in aiding its organization, and was afterwards chosen its Captain. He had no military knowledge, but his popularity among the boys secured him this honorable and responsible position. In January, 1862, his company was consolidated with the Seventy-sixth New York Volunteers, and he remained a member of it until he was mustered out of service, March fourteenth, 1865, having been in the service about three and a half years. The Regiment, as a Regiment, had been mustered out previous to this time, but at the time it was mustered out, he was a prisoner of war.

During the three and a half years of his service, he was in every battle in which his Regiment was engaged, up to May fifth, 1864, when he was wounded and taken prisoner. He was twice wounded, twice captured, and twice his name appeared among the killed. At the second Bull Run, when his Division was routed, August twenty-ninth, 1862, he, with Lieutenant Story, succeeded in bringing off about fifty of the men, and a few of the wounded. After an unsuccessful search until after midnight for their Regiment, they moved back a short distance from the enemy's line, placed out a guard, and, nearly exhausted with two days' and two nights' hard marching and desperate fighting, stretched themselves upon the ground for a few hours' rest. At break of day, men were sent out to find the Brigade, but it had been so badly scattered, that only a few of its men could be found together. The Colonel was at last found, and the regimental call sounded, and these men formed a nucleus around which the Regiment was soon gathered.

At the battle of Antietam, September seventeenth, 1862, he had command of his Regiment, although he was then the eighth ranking Captain, all those outranking him being absent on account of sickness, wounds or capture. At Gettysburg, July first, 1863, he was wounded and taken prisoner. He remained a prisoner until the fifth, when he was left by the enemy, on account of the severity of his wounds. During the fourth of July, he lay in a house between the two opposing picket lines, and within hailing distance of either. Fortunately, however, the firing during the day was carried on with small arms only, the balls from which could not penetrate the walls of the brick house in which he lay.

He was unable to rejoin his Regiment until October fifth, at which time his wound had become so nearly healed that he was able to resume his command. Just after he was wounded, he received the commission of Major, and when he rejoined his Regiment, he entered upon the duties of that position. In November following, he had command of his Regiment at the battle of Mine Run, and, as he had previously done at the battle of Antietam, commanded it with great skill. At the battle of the Wilderness, May fifth, 1864, he was taken prisoner. Colonel Cook had been wounded early in the action, and the Major, at the time he was captured, had command of the Regiment, and was at the front trying to rally and urge on his men. The capture was a great surprise to him. The enemy had forced back the One Hundred and Forty-seventh New York, which was on the immediate left of the Seventy-sixth, and the pine thicket in which they were fighting, was so dense he did not discover that the left flank of his Regiment had been turned, until the enemy appeared in his rear, in a little ravine. The fight had become a hand to hand encounter. Those at the front and left of the ravine cut off from the main part of the Regiment, surrounded by the enemy, whose fire was concentrated upon them from all points, were compelled to surrender. The loss of the Regiment was very heavy. The Major was slightly wounded just before he surrendered. After he was captured he was first taken to Orange Court House, and from there to Gordonsville the next day, and then to Lynchburg where he was confined some two weeks. He was afterwards confined in prison at Danville, Augusta, Macon, Charleston, Columbia, Charlotte, Raleigh and Goldsboro. He was also confined in several different jails, the longest period, at one time being seventeen days in the Charleston jail. During the two and a half months he was confined at Charleston, he was with the six hundred officers who were placed there under fire.

At Columbia he succeeded in making an escape, November twenty-eighth, but after traveling about three hundred miles in nearly a direct line, he was recaptured and returned to prison December twenty-sixth, having been absent four weeks and one day. He was obliged to travel in the night time, to prevent being discovered by the rebels. The negroes supplied him with provisions, until he got into the mountains, where there were no negroes kept ; then he was obliged to go to the house of a white man for food, and was recaptured by him, and consequently returned to prison. He was eight days returning, during which time he was frequently placed in jails for safe keeping over night, when the party who had him in charge halted.*

March first, 1865, he was paroled, and the same day arrived at Wilmington, N. C., and on the fourteenth was discharged at Annapolis, on account of his Regiment having previously been mustered out of service.

He is now engaged practicing law, in Cooperstown, Otsego county, N. Y.

*A full account of his escape and recapture is published in "Prison Life in the South", by Lieutenant A.O. Abbot. Published by Harper & Brothers, New York.

These two pictures are courtesy of Jeff Kowalis, who writes:
"the first is the traditional view of Young, same as the regimental, the second is the mystery image. Roger Hunt and myself find this one a real mystery. It's signed Jno W. Young and has a NY bm and
looks like a late war view of him when compared to the known view, but the problem is with his straps which are clearly Colonel - a rank he never held even as a Brevet.

The following letter is from Captain J. W. Young, of Springfield, connected with the 76th N.Y., dated Upton Hill, near Washington, Sept. 4th:-- transcribed by Richard Palmer from the Cherry Valley Gazette, Sept. 17, 1862

Dear Father:- I have only time to write you a few lines. I have attempted to write several times, but did not get a half a dozen lines written before we were ordered to move. We have been on the move since the 9th of August. I have not been able to get clean under clothes for three weeks until today. We have been in all the fights of importance in this section, except that of Cedar Mountain.

Five of our Captains are wounded, and two Lieutenants, one of whom has since died, viz: Lieut. Williams. Capt. Swan is among the wounded. About half of our men are either killed, wounded, or missing. Our men behaved beautifully, and fought desperately. John Vorhees fell mortally wounded by my side. I think Lester Winslow is also killed. I have not hear of him since going into the first action.

Wash. Devoe, Charles W. Devoe, William G. Van Horne, were all severely wounded with a number more of my company from Otsego county. I have not time to give their names. I am the only Captain left in the Regiment, now, who is reported able for duty. Our Major was also seriously wounded, and a number of the boys were taken prisoners. They have been paroled, and some 1,500 passed through here yesterday for Washington, among whom were two or three of our regiment. They say they had hard fare - but I must close or I shall not be able to get this in the mail.

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- Last Updated April 15, 2001