Abram Duryée - Biography


Abram's signature
Abram's Signature

From: Green-Wood Cemetery, Civil War Biographies

(1815-1890). Major general by brevet; brigadier general, United States Volunteers; colonel, 5th New York Infantry. Born in New York City, Duryée’s family had a long record of service to the nation. His father and two uncles were officers in the War of 1812 and his grandfather was a soldier in the American Revolution. After making a fortune in the mahogany business, Duryée joined the militia at age 18 and rose to colonel of the 7th Regiment in 1849 where he served until the start of the Civil War. During the Astor Place Riots in 1849, he was hit by stones thrown by the mob resulting in a permanent disability according to Jack D. Welsh, M.D., in Medical Histories of Union Generals  (1996, p. 104). (The State Militia was called out to quell a melee at the theater between nativist and anti-British supporters of two actors. Twenty-two were killed and many were injured in the violence.) Officers on porch, Civil War, 1861, Abram Duryee on right

In April 1861, he was among the first to recruit volunteers and in less than one week’s time organized the 5th New York, a regiment of 940 men, which became known as “Duryée’s Zouaves.” He was given the rank of colonel on May 25 and led the regiment at the Battle of Big Bethel, Virginia, on June 10 of that year. On September 11, 1861, he was commissioned brigadier general of United States Volunteers to date from August 31. While the 5th was in Baltimore, Maryland, in 1861, he was thrown from his horse, injuring his hip; he spent the next month recuperating in quarters. Subsequently, he commanded his brigade in Virginia at Cedar Mountain, Thoroughfare Gap, Second Bull Run, and Chantilly. In Maryland, he led his brigade at South Mountain, and Antietam. Brigadier General James B. Ricketts, United States Army, in his field report about the engagements from August 17-September 4, 1862, commended Duryée “for his noble conduct at Thoroughfare Gap and his indomitable courage displayed at Bull Run while holding a trying position…” General Meade commended him for his promptness in ascending the mountain in support of the Pennsylvania Reserves at South Mountain and he was recognized again by Ricketts for his “courage under fire” at Antietam. He was officially commended by General Pope for commanding his brigade “with ability and zeal,” and by General McDowell for his gallantry at Thoroughfare Gap. He was wounded twice at Bull Run, sustaining a shell wound under his right arm and a back injury, and after suffering three wounds at Antietam took a 30-day leave. When he returned to his brigade after that furlough, his position was given to an inferior and he could not claim it back. This led to his resignation on January 5, 1863. The 165th and 4th Regiments of the New York National Guard also bore his name. On March 13, 1865, he was brevetted major general of volunteers for distinguished services. At that time, Governor Fenton praised him, “In behalf of the State, allow me to thank you for the gallantry and devotion which induced this conspicuous mention by the general government.” William Swinton, in his History of the Seventh Regiment (1876), lists him on the roll of honor as a veteran of the 7th’s Company B; this service may have occurred before the Civil War.

In 1873, Duryée was appointed police commissioner of New York City, a position he held for many years. During his tenure, he was responsible for routing a gathering of communists from Tompkins Square in 1874. He continued to serve the City as dockmaster from 1884-1887. After suffering a stroke in 1887, he was totally incapacitated. As per an article about his funeral in The New York Times on October 1, 1890, the attendance of military men honoring his memory was “almost without precedent on any similar occasion.” His pallbearers included Col. Daniel Appleton, William H. Riblet, and Locke Winchester, veterans of the 7th Regiment. The attendees included almost the entire 7th Regiment and a large contingent of veterans from the regiment, some of whom served as pallbearers. At Green-Wood, Company B of the 7th Regiment gave him a final salute by firing three volleys and a tribute of “Good Night” was played by a United States Army bugler. His last residence was at 86 West 126th Street in Manhattan. Cemetery Section 96, lot 618

Click/tap the photos below for larger versions.

Colorized image Abram Duryee
Colorized version
Original photo, Abram Duryee
Original version