Last night I posted the first in what will be a multi-part series about Clarence McKenzie, the young boy who became the first Brooklynite to be killed in the American Civil War. Here is part two:
The war had begun two months earlier. Fort Sumter officially surrendered on April 14th. The next day President Lincoln called for 75,000 volunteer troops to suppress the rebellion and the 13th Regiment, N.G.S.N.Y., was one of the first units to answer the call. The 13th was no novice unit; its roots traced back to the American Revolution. It fought the British yet again during the War of 1812. The 13th New York was similar to other regiments across the young country, part military unit, part social club, part networking association. In times of peace the men of the unit were more likely to be found playing rounders or the new game of baseball than drilling and shooting. In 1858 the unit standardized its uniform; borrowing heavily from the U.S. Military Academy it adopted the somber palette of the West Point cadets. They were known colloquially thereafter as the National Greys. In their crisp new uniforms they marched that August in celebration of the just completed Transatlantic Cable. In a small irony the unit that had fought the Redcoats and helped sever the umbilical cord between the the Colonies and the British Crown now marched to commemorate a new cord tying America and Britain together via this scientific and engineering feat. In April 1859 the13th marched to observe the introduction of another technological marvel–running water–into the country’s third largest city, Brooklyn.
Young Clarence McKenzie joined the regiment around this time. He enlisted on July 9, 1860, perhaps inspired by a 4th of July display of pomp and circumstance. The easy camaraderie of the soldiers was no doubt equally alluring. The country was fracturing but still at peace. Abraham Lincoln’s election victory would not come until November, South Carolina’s secession until December. That fall the boy, all of eleven, drummed in his first parade; on October 12th he and the rest of the regiment marched for the Prince of Wales.
When the conflict came the following April New Yorkers and Brooklynites were swept with war fever just like most Americans. And like their fellow citizens those who lived in what are now the five boroughs of New York City believed that the war would be a quick one. This is why Lincoln initially called for a mere 75,000 men, and these to serve only for three months. Certainly the war would be over by mid summer. The 7th Regiment, based in Manhattan and comprised of the sons of Gotham’s wealthy elite, were the first New York unit to ship out, marching down Lower Broadway to wild applause on April 19th and embarking for the defense of Washington. The following day a crowd of 100,000 crammed Union Square to hear the mayor and others deliver patriotic speeches encouraging young men to enlist. The 13th also volunteered immediately, though a frustrating paperwork snafu in Albany delayed their passage. On 23 April, 486 men, approximately half of the regiments strength, boarded the steamer Marion for Annapolis, Maryland. With them was Clarence McKenzie, who literally banged the drum to which the regiment marched off to war.
Tomorrow: part three