A Tribute to Boonville’s 97th NYSVI

This page is dedicated to the brave men who served with the 97th New York State Volunteer Infantry (NYSVI) during the War Between the States, 1861-1865.

  • September 23, 1861 – Charles Wheelock, popular 49-year-old Boonville farmer and produce dealer, was appointed by New York’s Governor Morgan to organize a regiment in the Mohawk Valley region. Wheelock had also been a captain in the New York State Militia.
  • Many local men, including 89 in Company F of the 14th NY Volunteers (First Oneida), had already left Boonville in May 1861, after Fort Sumter, when the President first called for volunteers to suppress the rebellion and preserve the Union.
  • Records show that 452 men from Boonville enlisted in all organizations; 119 in the 97th.
  • Wheelock chose centrally located Boonville as his training area.

 Volunteers who signed up were not only from Boonville, but from all areas of Oneida, Lewis, Herkimer, and even Hamilton and Oswego counties, including Little Falls, Lassellsville, Brockett’s Bridge (now Dolgeville) Rome, Utica, Prospect, Remsen, Trenton, Croghan, Lowville, White Lake, Hawkinsville, Salisbury, Camden, Morehouseville.

  • About one half were between the ages of 21 and 30; one quarter consisted of boys from 18 through 20; while the remaining quarter was made up of men between the ages of 30 and 45.
  • Most of the men of the 97th were farmers, mechanics, and woodsmen.
  • Line officers were Colonel Charles Wheelock (later Brevet Brigadier-General), Boonville; Lieutenant Colonel John P. Spofford, Brockett’s Bridge; Major Charles B. Northrup, Rome; and Adjutant Charles Buck, Boonville. The chaplain was N. D. Ferguson.
  • An early photo of Col. Charles Wheelock

    Peter P. Post’s canal warehouse at the foot of Third Street was hastily converted into barracks, called Camp Rathbone.

  • Drilling began immediately on the area now known as Erwin Park, across the Black River Canal from the barracks.
  • While awaiting an official numerical designation, the men adopted the nickname, “The Conkling Rifles” for the popular Republican Congressman, Roscoe Conkling,
  • The regiment was also known as The Third Oneida (since it was the third regiment formed in Oneida County).
  • The ladies of Boonville had raised money from a four-day fair to purchase a flag, which was presented to the men on December 23, 1861.
  • February 18, 1862 – Wheelock’s regiment was mustered into U. S. service as the 97th regiment, New York Volunteers, by William R. Pease, then mustering and disbursing officer for Central New York, with offices in Utica.
  • March 12, 1862928 Conkling Rifles paraded up the main street at 8 a.m. where they boarded “The Butterfly,” which was assisted by another engine to haul the long line of coaches, 16 in all, to Utica, in the midst of a blizzard.
  • From there they traveled to the Washington area where they remained for several weeks.
  • August 1862 – Their “baptism of fire” was at Cedar Mountain, Virginia.
  • The 97th was involved in 30 major eastern battles, including Manassas, South Mountain, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Wilderness, Weldon Railroad, Spottsylvania, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, and Five Forks.
  • Gettysburg was the greatest battle in the history of the Western Hemisphere. Most military historians consider it the turning point in the Civil War.
  • At Gettysburg, the 97th was part of Brigadier General Henry Baxter’s Second Brigade, under Brigadier General John C. Robinson’s Division of the First Corps of the Army of the Potomac.
  • July 1, 1863 The 97th made a profound contribution to the outcome of the Battle of Gettysburg, the war, and ultimately the history of  the United States.
  • Although eventually overrun by Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, the 97th was instrumental in defeating an entire rebel brigade.
  • They also captured the battle flag of the 20th North Carolina Volunteer Infantry, as well as more prisoners than it had soldiers in its own regiment.
  • The 97th suffered many casualties – 132  of the 236 men of the 97th present on the field were among the more than 16,000 total battle casualties sustained that day at Gettysburg.
  • Among the captured officers were Col. Wheelock, Lt. Col. Spofford, Capts. Rouse Egelston and Henry B. Chamberlain, and Lts. Francis Murphy and Justus O. Rockwell.
  • Col. Wheelock later escaped by rolling down a steep cliff, and rejoined the 97th on July 14; Spofford rejoined the unit in January 1864.
  • During the three-day battle of Gettysburg, Confederate dead and wounded numbered more than 28,000; the Union loss was about 23,000
  • July 18, 1865 the 97th was mustered out of service at Washington, DC, with  270 men, under Col. John Spofford. 
  • Col. Wheelock, who was on sick leave often during the conflict, died in a Washington hospital, on January 21, 1865 at the age of 53.
  • His body was returned to Boonville, and in the midst of a blizzard on January 26, his funeral took place in the Presbyterian Church, with hundreds of people attending. He is buried in the Boonville Cemetery. 

    Col. Wheelock's gravemarker at the Boonville Cemetery

  • Of the 2,105 men who had appeared on the 97th regiment’s rolls, during their three and a half years of service, nearly 900 were killed, wounded, or missing, according to New York in the War of the Rebellion, by Frederick Phisterer, 1912. Many others died of disease.
  • More than a quarter century after the war, and at a cost of $1,500, the State of New York prepared a granite monument to honor the 97th’s heroic volunteers at Gettysburg.
  • The monument is 12 feet, 4 inches high, with a 7-foot-square granite base.
  • The Gettysburg Monument to the 97th After its Restoration

  • A dedication ceremony took place on July 2, 1889, at Gettysburg National Military Park, with many survivors attending.
  • The monument is one of only a handful in the entire Gettysburg National Military Park that recognizes a community and its regiment’s commander, in this case, Colonel Charles Wheelock.
  • In February of 2005, Boonville Civil War historian, Al Grenning, who is also an associate licensed Gettysburg battlefield guide and a member of the Friends of Gettysburg spoke to the Boonville Historical Club about the 97th regiment’s involvement at the Battle of Gettysburg. He also spoke of the damage the monument had suffered over the years, including a large chip on one corner. He mentioned the need to repair and preserve the monument.
  • Boonville Historical Club members decided to take action, and under the leadership of president Patricia Bellinger, a fund-raising committee was formed in May 2005, tasked with raising $5,000: $2,500 for repairs to the monument, and $2,500 to establish a perpetual endowment fund for future preservation of the monument.
  • Thanks to generous donations from individuals from many areas, organizations, and local government, the club successfully raised the necessary funds, and the restoration to the monument was completed in October 2005.
  • Club president Bellinger also spearheaded a drive for funds to erect a local marker in memory of the men of the 97th.
  • Erwin Park, where the men originally drilled, was chosen as the location for the historical marker.
  • A program to commemorate the unveiling of the local marker, the restoration of the Gettysburg monument, and the preservation endowment for the Gettysburg monument was held Saturday morning, June 3, 2006, at 9 a.m. at Erwin Park, along Rt. 12 in Boonville.

 

Note: This history was compiled from various sources. If you have any comments or corrections, we’d love to hear from you!

10 responses to “A Tribute to Boonville’s 97th NYSVI

  1. Dan Deforrest

    I have some pension application documents for Henry Patrick Fitzpatrick of Co G 97th NYSV which I would be happy to copy and forward to yo. The documents include three letters written by Fitz to his father john Fitzpatrick.
    Henry was KIA at the Weldon Railroad in August 1864.
    Does your club have any photos of the 97th???

    • Judy Druck Routson

      Hi Dan – I am so sorry for this late reply! If you would like to send me copies of the documents, we could use them in our Oneida County History Day display on October 1. They would be a great addition to our “Patriotic” display area. The club presently does not have any permanent storage area for archive documents, so I would probably turn these over to the Boonville Black River Canal Museum after the History Day event, if that is OK with you.
      Unfortunately we do not have any photos in our possession, as we are actually a club, and not a historical society, and as just mentioned we have no archives. There are several books available that contain photos. Have you read these? I will have to do some research, since I can’t think of them at the moment, but I could get back to you – hopefully within a reasonable time! Again I apologize for the delay in getting back to you.
      Judy Routson

  2. Charles Gray

    Very interesting.My Great-grandfather,William Gray was in Co E. of the 97th.Lived to the age of 81 dying in 1909.Buried in Ilion,NY.

    • Judy Druck Routson

      Thanks for that information. And thanks for your interest in our blog. Sorry It is in need of updating, which I hope to do very soon. Please stop by and visit again soon!

  3. Thanks for this memorial page. Every soldier should have someone to remember them. My relative Dewitt Clinton Grosjean (Grosjang) served with the 117th for three years. I can share a letter that he wrote to his mother while in the hospital recuperating. It’s very touching..Dewitt came home and became a well known carpenter in Boonville.

    • Judy Druck Routson

      Hi Brian – sorry to be so late in responding to your message. Thanks very much for sharing your information. It’s possible the club may contact you in the future for more information on the letter to which you’re referring. Sorry the site has not been updated in some time, but we hope to remedy that shortly.
      We appreciate your visit! Please stop by again soon.

  4. Joseph Mancini

    Just found out that my Great Grand Uncle Archie Jones from Rock Stream NY was in this unit. ( My Bio Father was Ted Jones )

  5. My great grandfather, William cheetham and great great grandfather, john cheetham both served in 97th as corporals and were from sodus,NY in Wayne county.both are buried I. Sodus rural cemetery. We have their rifles,a uniform, sword, and many other items of theirs.

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