Background Image

Writings of Jacob Eugene Duryée

10th Jul 2022 in

Jacob Eugene Duryee ca. 1900
Jacob, ca. 1895

Introduction

Jacob Eugene Duryée was my great-grandfather, and I've always felt a deep connection with him. It was a pleasure to once again look through his papers and finally transcribe a bit of his writing. My dig through my archives today was fueled by recent communication with the author Brian Downey of the blog Antietam on the Web.

The following are a journal entry, a letter written in June 1862 to his mother, Caroline Allen Duryée in New York, and his letter of resignation after the battle of Antietam.

Amazingly, he commanded the 2nd Maryland troops at Antietam when he was just 23 years old. He always said that when he passed, he wanted to be buried at Antietam with his men so he could rest in eternity with them. And so he was. When he passed away in Los Angeles in 1918, his body was carried by train back to the battlefield of Antietam and buried with the bodies of the men he commanded at Burnside Bridge, just as he wanted. He loved the men who served under him and now rests with all of them eternally. He didn't hate them, as has been written, very wrongly, recently.


J. E. D.'s Journal Entry of His 45th Anniversary Visit to Antietam

I have left Jacob's spelling, punctuation, and usage as he wrote them. Hyphenations, commas, etc. have received no edits. The term "Minie bullet" is the name of a bullet that Claude Etienne Minie designed for muzzle-loading rifled muskets. (Wikipedia)

Los Angeles, Jan 1st 1908

On September 17th 1907, the forty fifth anniversary of the battle, Colonel Taylor, Captain Glenn, and myself visited the battle-field. The weather was clear and warm, the exact counterpart of the day on which the battle was fought, September 17th, 1862. We walked over the same direct route and at about the same time as taken by the regiment forty-five years previous. Oh! how strange it all seemed to me, the bridge, trees, road, fences, and the quiet and picturesque stream. The Antietam, which waters the beautiful Cumberland Valley, slowly winding its way to the historic Potomac. With the exception of a few beautiful monuments that have been erected by survivors of famous regiments who were engaged at the bridge, there has not been the slightest change in this location, not even a building of any sort to mar the scenery. I was able to point out to my companions the exact spots where the different heroes fell, Captain Wilson, Lieutenant Martin, color bearer Osborn, my orderly Sargeant Stewart, and many others that gave up their lives on that memorable field.

It was to me indescribably realistic. To find words to express the strange feelings that overcame me, I cannot. I cannot believe that nearly half a century has passed. Most all the participants in that bloody struggle have long since answered the last roll call, or as we say in the Grand Army of the Republic, "have been forever mustered out".

We were accompanied over the field by Captain Charles Adams, Superintendent in charge of the battle-field. The Captain picked up a Minie bullet in the field adjoining the one occupied by the regiment before making the assault on the day of the battle. The bullet had been in the ground all this time. The Captain presented it to me as a souvenir of my visit. We also called on Captain J. O. Davis who is in charge of the National Antietam Cemetery.

Click on the images above to see Jacob's handwritten journal entry.

Jacob Eugene's Letter to His Mother

Camp Bradford
Near New Berne N.C.
June 19th 1862

Dear Mother,

I received my appointment as Colonel from General Burnside yesterday afternoon. It reads thus,

Head Quarters
Department of North Carolina
New Berne June 17, 1862

Special Order
No. 133

    X        X        X        X        X        X    

The following appointment in the 2nd Regt. Maryland Volunteers is here made subject to the approval of the Governor of Maryland.

Lt. Col. J. Eugene Duryée to be Colonel since Colonel John Sommer resigned.

By command of Maj. General Burnside.
G. M. Cutts
Capt 11th Infantry
Act Apt Adj. Gen.

X        X        X        X        X        X

The General has written to the Governor to have me commissioned. I do not think he will oppose it after the recommendation of General Burnside.

We were to have a grand parade today and the award given by the State of Rhode Island to Gen. Burnside was to be presented, but owing to the inclemency of the weather, it has been postponed until tomorrow. All the troops in the Department will be present except those on picket. It will be a grand affair, and I am confident the 2nd Maryland will not be surpassed by any in appearance and discipline.

I have learned through a reliable source that the newly appointed Military Governor Stanley gives the 2nd Maryland credit as being the finest regiment here. This gives me great pleasure as it comes from an impartial judge.

We have been very busy today in entertaining the 4th Rhode Island Regiment. They arrived here this morning from Beaufort and were to escort Gen. Burnside in the parade.

They were overtaken by the rain and I offered them shelter in my camp. It is useless for me to say that the (10 words illegible). After their line was formed previous to marching they gave three cheers for the 2nd  Maryland which I assure you were heartily responded to by the Baltimore Boys.

I wish that you would tell uncle Joseph to purchase for me two boxes of (?) claret, two foot balls, and two pairs of boxing gloves. Send them along as soon as possible for they would amuse us very much. Get the money from Gilbert to buy them and charge to me.

Enclosed you will find the autograph of General Burnside.

Give my love to all.

From your affectionate son,
J. E. Duryée Lt. Colonel

Interestingly, the "Lt" is crossed out, leaving only "Colonel" 😁


Jacob never landed the Colonel rank. He remained a Lieutenant Colonel until after the war when he was made Brigadier General by the nomination of President Andrew Johnson. In fact, only a few days after the battle of Antietam, which came about three months after he wrote this letter to his mother, he tendered his resignation from the army. His frustration came from the fact that Governor Augustus Bradford of Maryland denied his advancement to Colonel, as well as the fact that Governor Bradford visited the battlefield but refused to visit the wounded and dying soldiers in the makeshift hospital on-site at Antietam.

I have just come across Jacob's letter of resignation from the army, so here is that document. (Thank you Brian Downey) A photo of it is available in the Gallery below:

Jacob's Resignation Letter

Head Quarters, 2 Regt.
Maryland Volunteers
Antietam, MD
Sept. 21st 1862

Lieut. John Edwin Mason,
Act. Asst. Adj. Genl.

Sir,

This is to respectfully represent that I now hold the post of Lieut. Col. in the 2nd Regiment Maryland Vols. That in consequence of not being a native of the State of Maryland, I am deprived of that which a soldier holds most dear, "Promotion". Therefore I am induced to resign my commission. I would further represent that I am not under arrest, and that I have handed over all the books and papers belonging to the Regiment, to the proper officer authorized to receive them, and do now press this, my resignation, the same to be unconditional and immediate.

I am Sir, Very Respectfully
Your Obt. Servant,
J. Eugene Duryée
Lt. Conl. Comdg 2 Regt Md Vols


Biography

Here is a good biography of Jacob from WikiMili:

Jacob Eugene Duryee ca. 1863
Jacob ca. 1862

The son of Union Brigadier General Abram Duryee, Jacob Eugene Duryée served at the start of the Civil War as a private in the 7th New York State Militia Regiment. He then was commissioned as a lieutenant and later captain in his father's regiment, the 5th New York Volunteer Infantry (known as the "Duryée Zouaves"), before Colonel Duryée became a brigade commander and brigadier general.

On September 21, 1861, Duryée was transferred to the 2nd Maryland Infantry as its lieutenant colonel. The regiment participated in Major General Ambrose Burnside's successful campaign to retake the North Carolina port of New Bern, culminating in the Battle of New Bern on March 14, 1862. On April 24, 1862, Colonel John Sommer resigned as commander of the regiment and Lieutenant Colonel Duryée took full command. On May 15, 1862, the regiment skirmished with Confederates at Pollocksville and Young's Cross Roads and destroyed the bridge at Haughton's Mill.

The regiment did not finish its work in North Carolina in time to participate in the Peninsula Campaign but joined Major General John Pope's Army of Virginia in time to take part in the Second Battle of Bull Run and the subsequent Maryland Campaign under Major General George B. McClellan.

Antietam

At the Battle of Antietam, Duryée stalwartly led his regiment from the front as the men tried to take the infamous Burnside's Bridge over Antietam Creek in the face of withering fire from Georgia regiments on the hills on the opposite bank. He continued to lead and encourage them as they took increasing casualties but finally, the regiment had to break off their attack after 44 percent of the men in the regiment had become casualties. Following the shock of Antietam, on September 22, 1862, Colonel Duryée resigned his commission as commander of the 2nd Maryland Infantry. General Burnside did not wish to accept Duryée's resignation but understood his frustration and ultimately accepted it. After Antietam, fewer than 100 men of the original 953 in the regiment at the time of its organization answered the roll call. Duryée was especially upset that Governor Augustus Bradford of Maryland had visited the battlefield but had not visited the regiment or the makeshift hospital in which so many men from the regiment lay wounded and dying.

After the Civil War

On July 5, 1867, President Andrew Johnson nominated Duryée for appointment to the brevet grade of Brigadier General of volunteers, to rank from March 13, 1865, for "gallant and meritorious services," and the U.S. Senate confirmed the nomination on July 19, 1867.

Sometime between 1900 and 1905, Jacob and his wife Lilly (not Lillian, just Lilly) Hoag Duryée, moved with their son Harvey Hoag Duryee and his wife Grace Bartlett Kissam Duryée, to Southern California. Originally settling in Redlands, the families both soon moved to Los Angeles. Jacob passed away on May 25, 1918, in Los Angeles. His body was transported back to Maryland where he is interred at Antietam National Cemetery in Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Jacob Eugene Duryée was a member of the Holland Society of New York. The members are descendants of immigrants from Holland who had been in America since at least 1675.

 


Gallery

You can click through the small images, or simply click on any of the images and a full-screen slide show will begin.

 

Envelope containing letter
Envelope containing letter

Envelope containing letter

Page one
Page one

Page one

Page 2
Page 2

Page 2

Page 3
Page 3

Page 3

Page 4
Page 4

Page 4

Jacob Eugene Duryee, ca. 1863
Jacob Eugene Duryee, ca. 1863

Jacob Eugene Duryee, ca. 1863

Jacob's Resignation from the 2nd Maryland Volunteers
Jacob's Resignation from the 2nd Maryland Volunteers

Jacob's Resignation from the 2nd Maryland Volunteers

4 Generations, Caroline, Jacob, Harvey, Harvey Jr.
4 Generations, Caroline, Jacob, Harvey, Harvey Jr.

4 Generations, Caroline, Jacob, Harvey, Harvey Jr.

Jacob Eugene Duryee, ca. 1895
Jacob Eugene Duryee, ca. 1895

Jacob Eugene Duryee, ca. 1895

Jacob's Headstone at Antietam
Jacob's Headstone at Antietam

Jacob's Headstone at Antietam

Jacob's Obit. from LA Times
Jacob's Obit. from LA Times

Jacob's Obit. from LA Times

Add new comment