Monday, April 8, 2013

April 1863: E.A. Goodwin & the 99th NY Regt. in Virginia

In April 1863, Corporal Eugene A. Goodwin,  former Belvidere school teacher, was in Suffolk, Virginia with the 99th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment.  He had recently been promoted to Corporal of the Regimental Color Guard. 

In the 20th and 21st Centuries, color guards were formed to lead parades.  In the 19th Century, a color guard consisted of eight to ten corporals or sergeants whose sole duty was to guard the National and Regimental Flags with their lives.  When a regiment went into battle, the color guard stood under fire with the flags and did not fire their weapons unless the flags were in danger of being captured.  The color guards were expected to save the flags or die in the attempt. As a last resort, the survivors were expected to hide, bury or destroy the flags before they were captured.  Only the steadiest and bravest of the regiment were usually appointed to the color guard.

Goodwin had enlisted in the 99th NY Infantry in New York City in May 1861.  The regiment was assigned to the Naval Brigade.  On March 9, 1862, Goodwin and his regiment were on the shore of Newport News, Virginia and witnessed the battle of the Monitor (USS Monitor)and the Merrimac (CSS Virginia).  They were on shore the day before to rescue survivors of the USS Cumberland and USS Congress, wooden ships sunk by the CSS Virginia.  

A year later, the 99th was in Suffolk, Virginia.  The regiment lived in trenches  for protection against shots from Confederate sharpshooters.  On April 14, 1863, Goodwin wrote to The Belvidere Intelligencer, "I and eight more corporals are the color guard of the regiment, so that if I am killed, I shall die in protecting our dear old flag.  My desire is to have it come out of this war victorious over all its enemies."

Copyright 1997-2013: Jay C. Richards  

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