Merklees in the Civil War: John B. Merklee


John Merklee was born in June 1841 in New York City, the fifth child of John and Elizabeth (Burnett) Merklee. He worked as a clerk in his father's produce business at Manhattan's Washington Market. John married Penelope Powell in June of 1864. They were divorced on 8 December 1865. On 16 March 1875, he married Emma Leaman Dodge, daughter of William and Eliza Dodge (it is highly probable that John Merklee served alongside John Dodge, Emma's brother, in the NY 71st Infantry Regiment). John and Emma had a daughter, May, born about 1878. In reviewing the 1880 U.S. Census, it seems the family had broken up, with Emma and May staying with Emma's mother in Westchester, NY, and John living with his parents in Brooklyn. John spent the last eight years of his life at the New York State Soldiers and Sailors Home in Bath, NY. He died there on 14 April 1908, and is buried at Bath National Cemetery.

John Merklee's service in the Civil War is a complex story that is still being sorted out. In addition to enlisting so many times throughout the war, it is also a mystery as to why his headstone reads "Sergt." when he is known to have attained the rank of Full Lieutenant 2nd Class. And it is not yet certain that he is the same John Merklee who deserted the Connecticut 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment in 1864.

Service Record:
From April 1861 to 31 July 1861, he served as a Private in Company H of the 71st New York State Militia.

On 19 September 1861, at the age of 23, he enlisted as a Private at New York City, NY, and mustered into Company B of the NY 53rd Infantry. About 30 January 1862 he transferred to Company C. He was mustered out on 25 April 1862 at Washington, D.C.

On 5 August 1862 at the age of 23, he enlisted as a Private at Brooklyn, NY. He mustered into Company G of the NY 158th Infantry on 28 August 1862. On 1 January 1863 he transferred to Company E and was promoted to Full Lieutenant 2nd Class. He was dismissed on 23 June 1863.

Sources: New York: Report of the Adjutant-General. (NYRoster) Published in 1894-1906

On 5 January 1864, giving his residence as Stonington, CT, he enlisted as a Private and mustered into Company F of the Connecticut 1st Heavy Artillery Regiment. He deserted on 5 February 1864.

Source: Connecticut: Record of Service of Men during War of Rebellion. (CTRoster) Published in 1889 by Case, Lockwood & Brainard.


Regimental Histories

Name of Regiment: New York 71st Infantry Regiment
Date of Organization: 3 May 1861
Muster Date: 31 July 1861
Regiment Type: Infantry
Officers Killed or Mortally Wounded: 1
Officers Died of Disease or Accident: 1
Enlisted Killed or Mortally Wounded: 12
Enlisted Died of Disease or Accident: 4

NEW YORK SEVENTY-FIRST REGIMENT.
American Guard.

The regiment, located in New York City and still in the service, was organized originally as a battalion of four companies, A, B, C and D in June, 1850; it was made a regiment August 2, 1852. The American Rifles, a battalion of four companies, formed the nucleus of the regiment. September 21,1870, the 37th Regiment was consolidated with the 71st Regiment, Companies E, D, H, A, G, K and B of the 37th Regiment being consolidated with Companies A, C, D, E, F, G and K of the 71st Regiment, respectively. April 28, 1898, it received authority to organize as a twelve-company regiment, preparatory to its entry into the United States service, in which it was mustered May 10, 1898, as the 71st Regiment, N.Y. Volunteer Infantry, and mustered out November 15, 1898. December 8, 1898, it was reorganized as a National Guard regiment, composed of ten companies, Companies L and M being disbanded.The regiment has received authority to place silver rings on the lances of its colors' engraved as follows:

On the National Color.-Alexander, Va., May 24, 1861; Aquia Creek, Va., May 31, 1861; Matthias Point, Va., June 27, 1861; Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861; Tenallytown, D.C., 1862;Washington, D.C., 1862; Gettysburg Campaign, 1863; Kingston, Pa., June 26, 1863; near Harrisburg, Pa., June 29, 1863; Spanish-American war, 1898; Cuba, June, July and August, 1898; San Juan Hill, July 1, 1898; siege of Santiago de Cuba, July 2 to 17, 1898.

On the State Color.-Dead Rabbit riot, 1857; Quarantine riots, 1858; Draft riots, 1863; Orange riots 1871; Railroad riots, 1877; Buffalo, 1892; Brooklyn, 1896.

Service in the War of the Rebellion
The regiment left the State (nine companies), under orders, April 21, 1861, en route for Washington, D.C. commanded by Col. A. S. Vosburg; was mustered in the United States service for three months, on the 3d of May; served at and near Washington and in the 2d Brigade, 2d Division, Army of North-Eastern Virginia; its Company I, armed with two howitzers, was originally Company L, 19th Militia, Parmenter's Riflemen. The regiment was mustered out under Col. H. P. Martin, July 31, 1861, at New York City.

May 28, 1862, the regiment (ten companies) was again mustered in the United States service for three months; it left the State the same day, commanded by Colonel Martin; it served in the defenses of Washington in Sturgis' Brigade and was mustered out in New York city, September 2, 1862.

On the return of the regiment from this last service a number of its members joined the 124th Volunteers, then being recruited and organized. June 17, 1863, the regiment (ten companies), commanded by Col. Benjamin L. Trafford, left the State en route to Harrisburg, Pa., for a service of thirty days; it served with the 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Department Susquehanna; and was mustered out of the United States service at New York City, July 22, 1863.

The regiment lost in its service in 1861, killed in action, ten enlisted men; died of wounds received in action, one officer, two enlisted men; died of disease, etc., one officer, four enlisted men; total, two officers, sixteen enlisted men; aggregate, eighteen; and it, or portions of it, took part in the occupation of Alexandria, Va., May 24, 1861; the attack on batteries, at Aquia Creek, Va., May 31, and June 1, 1861; the attack on Matthias Point on June 27, 1861; the battle of Bull Run, Va., July 21, 1861, where it suffered a loss of ten enlisted men killed, three officers and thirty-seven enlisted men wounded; one officer, eleven enlisted men captured; aggregate, sixty-two; a skirmish at Kingston, Pa., June 26, 1863, and at Oyster Point near Harrisburg, Pa., June 29, 1863, in which it had one enlisted man wounded.

Source: The Union Army, vol. 2
 
Battles during John Merklee's time of service:
Fought on 31 May 1861 at Aquia Creek, Va.
Fought on 1 June1861 at Aquia Creek, Va.
Fought on 27 June 1861 at Matthias Point, Va.
Fought on 21 July 1861 at Bull Run, Va.
 

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Name of Regiment: New York 53rd Infantry Regiment
Date of Organization: 1 October 1861
Muster Date: 21 March 1862
Regiment Type: Infantry
Officers Killed or Mortally Wounded: 1
Officers Died of Disease or Accident: 0
Enlisted Killed or Mortally Wounded: 3
Enlisted Died of Disease or Accident: 7

NEW YORK FIFTY-THIRD INFANTRY
Col. - Lionel J. D'Epineuil
Lieut.-Cols. - J. A. Viginer de Manteil, George F. Chester
Maj. - John Baptiste Cantel.

The 53rd, the "D'Epineuil Zouaves," was organized in New York city, but contained members, mainly of French origin, from tall parts of the state and one company of Indians from the Tuscarora reservation. It was mustered into the U. S. service at New York Aug. 27 to Nov. 15, 1861, for three years and left for Washington on the 18th.

Stationed at Annapolis, the regiment was attached in Jan., 1862, to Burnside's expeditionary corps and a detachment of the command was active in the battle of Roanoke island. In March the regiment was discontinued, Co. A became Co. G of the 17th N. Y. infantry and the remainder of the regiment was mustered out at Washington, March 21, 1862.

It lost during service 3 by death from wounds and 7 by death from other causes. Authority to organize another 53d regiment was issued and Maj. A. Buckingham was placed in command, but in Sept., 1862, the recruits enlisted for the regiment were transferred to the 132nd and 162nd N. Y. infantry.

Source: The Union Army, Vol. 2, p. 89
 
NEW YORK FIFTY-THIRD REGIMENT OF INFANTRY
First Organization: D'Epineuil Zouaves.

Colonel Lionel J. D'Epineuil received, August 2, 1861, authority from the War Department to recruit a regiment of infantry. This regiment received its numerical designation from the State, and was organized in New York City, October 12,1861. It was recruited in that city, but received many men from other parts of the State. Its members were mostly Frenchmen, but one company was formed of Indians from the Tuscarora Reservation. It was mustered in the United States service for three years, between August 27 and November 15, 1861, at New York City.

The regiment left the State November 18, 1861; served at and near Washington, D. C, and Annapolis, Md., from November 20, 1861; in Burnside's Expeditionary Corps, from January 3,1862; at Fort Monroe, Va., Annapolis, Md., Suffolk, Va., and finally Washington, D. C., from January 26, 1862; Company A was transferred to the 17th Infantry, as Company G, March 8, 1862; and the regiment honorably discharged and mustered out March 21. 1862. at Washington. D.C.

Source: Phisterer, p. 2,441
 
Battles during John Merklee's time of service:
Fought on 8 February 1862 at Roanoke Island, NC.
 

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Name of Regiment: New York 158th Infantry Regiment
Date of Organization: 10 November 1862
Muster Date: 30 June 1865
Regiment Type: Infantry
Officers Killed or Mortally Wounded: 2
Officers Died of Disease or Accident: 0
Enlisted Killed or Mortally Wounded: 45
Enlisted Died of Disease or Accident: 83

NEW YORK ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHTH INFANTRY
(Three Years)
Cols. - James Jourdan, William H. McNary
Lieut.-Cols. - Wm. H. McNary, Hyron Kalt;
Majs. - William H. Burnett, John O'Connor, Silas A. Ilsley, Hyron Kalt, William A. Furrey.

This was a Brooklyn regiment, all its members being recruited in that city except part of Co. C, which was raised in Jamaica and New York City. It was organized at Brooklyn as one of the regiments of the Empire (Spinola's) brigade, and went to the front under command of Col. James Jourdan, afterwards promoted to brevet major-general.

The regiment left the state on Sept. 18, 1862, about 700 strong, proceeded to Norfolk, Va., where it was mustered into the U. S. service for three years on Nov. 11, and soon after moved to Suffolk. A few weeks later it was ordered to New Berne, N. C., and placed in the 2nd brigade, 5th division, 18th corps.

It remained in North Carolina until the summer of 1864, when it rejoined the 18th corps at Bermuda Hundred, Va. During its long stay in North Carolina it performed garrison and outpost duty at New Berne, Beaufort and Morehead, and took part in several brilliant raids.

It went to the relief of Gen. Foster at Washington, N. C., when he was besieged there in the spring of 1863, and in 1864 the regiment, led by Col. Jourdan, made a brilliant raid into Jones and Onslow counties, N. C. Lieut.-Col. McNary served as military governor of Beaufort.

In Sept., 1864, soon after joining the Army of the James, the regiment was attached to the 1st brigade, Heckman's (2nd) division, 18th corps and was heavily engaged at Fort Harrison, losing 78 killed, wounded and missing. Gen. Butler wired to Gen. Grant: "The 158th is with the Army of the James, and won its colors handsomely at Battery Harrison." When the 24th corps was formed in Dec., 1864, it was attached to the 1st (Foster's) division of that corps, with which it took part in the assault on Forts Gregg and Whitworth at the time of the final attack on the works of Petersburg April 2, 1865.

After the fall of Petersburg it followed in the pursuit of Lee's army, being sharply engaged at Rice's station and at Clover hill, on the morning of Lee's surrender. On that occasion the troops of the 24th corps fired the last infantry-volley of the Army of the Potomac. The loss of the 158th in the Appomattox campaign amounted to 55 killed, wounded and missing.

During the assault on Fort Gregg, April 2, 1865, Lieut. Edward Reilly was killed, being the only commissioned officer killed in action during the war, though Lieut. James Crosbie was killed before Petersburg, Oct. 29, 1864, while serving with Co. D, 52nd N. Y. Four of the regiment were awarded medals of honor by Congress for gallantry in action: Sergts. William Laing and James Howard, and privates John Schiller and George Grube.

After Lee's surrender the regiment returned to Richmond and was there mustered out under Col. McNary, June 30, 1865. Its loss during service was 2 officers and 49 men killed and mortally wounded; 83 men died of disease and other causes; 4 men were accidentally killed at Batchelder's creek, N. C., by an explosion of torpedoes; total deaths, 134.

Source: The Union Army, Vol. 2, p. 162
 
NEW YORK ONE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-EIGHTH REGIMENT OF INFANTRY
First Regiment, Empire Brigade
(Three Years)

This regiment was organized in Brooklyn as one of the regiments of the Empire, Spinola, Brigade, and, August 13, 1862, James Jourdan was appointed its Colonel. It was mustered in the service of the United States for three years November 10 and 11, 1862, at Norfolk, Va. The companies were recruited principally: A, B, D, E, F, G, H, I and K at Brooklyn, and C at Brooklyn, Jamaica and New York city. June 30, 1865, the men not to be mustered out with the regiment were transferred to the 100th Infantry.

The regiment left the State September 18, 1862; it served in Viele's Brigade, at Norfolk, Va., from September, 1862; at Suffolk, Va., from November, 1862; at New Berne, N.C., 18th Corps, from January, 1863; in the 2d Brigade, 5th Division, 18th Corps, from February, 1863; in Jourdan's Independent Brigade, Palmer's, 1st, Division, 8th Corps, from May, 1863; in the defenses of New Berne, N.C., Jourdan's Brigade, 1st Division, 18th Corps, from July, 1863; at Beaufort and Morehead, N.C., from December, 1863; in the 1st Brigade, 2d Division, I8th Corps, from August, 1864; in the 4th Brigade,1st Division, 24th Corps, from December, 1864; in the 3d Brigade, 1st Division, 24th Corps, from March, 1865; and, commanded by Col. William H. McNary, it was honorably discharged and mustered out June 30, 1865, at Richmond, Va.

Source: Phisterer, p. 3,844
 
Battles during John Merklee's time of service:
Battle at Deep Gully, North Carolina on 30 March 1863
Pickets of 2nd Brigade, 5th Division, 18th Army Corps. An extract from the "Records of Events" of 2nd brigade, 5th division, 18th army corps, says: "Five companies of this brigade picketed that portion of our lines running from red house to Trent river, in the vicinity of Deep Gully, at which place, on March 30, a slight skirmish with the enemy's pickets occurred." The Federal casualties were slight, 1 man being wounded and captured.

Source: The Union Army, Vol.,5 p.,355
 

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Name of Regiment: Connecticut 1st Artillery Regiment
Date of Organization: 23 May 1861
Muster Date: 25 September 1865
Regiment Type: Heavy Artillery
Officers Killed or Mortally Wounded: 2
Officers Died of Disease or Accident: 4
Enlisted Killed or Mortally Wounded: 49
Enlisted Died of Disease or Accident: 172
 
Battles during John Merklee's time of service:
Fought on 25 January 1864 at Ball's Cross Roads, VA.
 
 

 71insignia
The regimental crest of the 71st Infantry Regiment.
(Courtesy of Clarence Anspake)
 
71stNY
Some of the men of the 71st NY in front of
HQ at the Washington, D.C. Naval Yard.
May or June 1861.
(Courtesy of Clarence Anspake)

 

JMHeadstone
John Merklee's headstone at Bath National Cemetery, Bath, NY.
(Courtesy of Walter Baroody)